Is this the busiest spring break ever? Here’s what folks are saying on Hilton Head
Traffic on Hilton Head Island is bad.
There are hour-long waits at restaurants and long lines at the grocery stores.
Is it July?
Nope, but tourism data shows there are as many — and maybe more — visitors here than there were during the Fourth of July holiday last year.
This past Wednesday saw the second highest day in traffic on Hilton Head in the past decade, according to bridge data from the S.C. Department of Transportation.
The data shows 69,614 vehicles crossed the bridge — which is just behind the record-holding day of May 26th, 2017 with 70,576 vehicles.
Resorts, restaurants and tourism groups are also reporting increases in visitors in recent months. Projections show that trend could continue into the next six months.
Easter week has historically been a busy time for Hilton Head — even when it doesn't coincide with the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing golf tournament.
"This is not unusual for spring break week," said Warren Woodard, director of sales and marketing for Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort. "It just seemed to be a little more intense this week."
The resort has seen 100 percent occupancy since Friday.
Booking.com is reporting the island is 99 percent booked for Thursday night.
Others across the tourism industry are saying the visitor count seems higher than usual — including at Sea Pines Resort and Hilton Head Island Beach and Tennis Resort and Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks.
March saw a 29 percent increase in rentals of more than 400 homes and villas in Sea Pines Resort, said John Munro, resort vice president of sales and marketing.
April is forecasting a 7 percent increase, Monro said Thursday.
"Our yearly totals are pushing about 10 percent up," Munro said.
The higher numbers for tourism in recent months is an indicator of a busy tourism season, said Charlie Clark, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce vice president of communications.
"We are coming off a strong winter," she said. "That bodes well for what is to come. All signs and metrics are pointing in an upward direction."
Clark said tourism data used by the chamber is reporting a 16 percent increase in visitors for the next six months.
Those working in the tourism industry are already feeling it.
"I have been here 35 years and I have never seen it this busy," said Scott Entrup, Hilton Head Island Beach and Tennis Resort. "We are very positive about the upcoming season."
Andrew Carmines, owner of Hudson's, said a busy Easter week is a pattern he has seen building for about five years.
Spring tourism can be felt and seen more in restaurants and on the roadway because they aren't at the beach all day, Carmines said.
"People are out and about," he said. "They are going to restaurants and shopping."
Easter week tourists also bring more families — ultimately more people per room booked — than the week of the Heritage, Woodard said.