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The $48 million, 407-room Marriott-Grande Dunes Plans to be Myrtle Beach's Second
Four-diamond Hotel
The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Tourism Talk Column
By Dawn Bryant, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Dec. 12, 2003 - The Marriott-Grande Dunes plans to greet its first guests Monday and help the Grand Strand usher in higher-end tourists who will bring more dollars to the beach. 

Workers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on the $48 million, 407-room oceanfront tower, which hopes to join the Radisson Plaza Hotel in catering to an upscale clientele. 

Attracting those free-spending tourists will help the Grand Strand broaden its visitor base and reach a new level, tourism leaders said. 

"It kind of completes our mix of great product," said Jean Ann Brakefield, vice president of the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

Having worked through concerns from its neighbors, the Marriott is focusing on getting the hotel ready for its Monday opening. It hasn't yet had its final inspection from the city. 

"We are going to be working 24 hours a day, round the clock, to get everything ready," said sales director Cindy Hull. 

The Marriott, with a goal of becoming the beach's second AAA-rated four-diamond hotel in Myrtle Beach, has amenities guests won't find anywhere else at the beach: a full-service spa and an oceanfront pool deck the size of two football fields. 

The Mediterranean-style tower at 82nd Avenue North, a look keeping with Grande Dunes, also has Internet connections in each room, a ballroom that can seat 1,600 people, 45,000 square feet of meeting space and a restaurant. 

Rates range from $119 to $209 in the winter and $199 to $319 in the summer. 

"We are trying to fill an oceanfront upscale niche," Hull said. "We want to bring new people to the area that probably would not have considered Myrtle Beach." 

Though getting business from vacationers, golfers and wedding parties, the Marriott is catering to groups, keying in on state and regional associations with between 200 and 500 members. 

That's a market segment the Radisson also has tried to capture since its January opening. Radisson is the only four-diamond hotel at the beach. 

"The Radisson has sort of spearheaded the effort," Hull said. "We're both trying to put Myrtle Beach on the map." 

The Marriott will have a short-term effect on the Radisson, but the pair can create a synergy that helps the beach reach its high-end goals, Radisson sales director Craig Smith said. 

"In the long term it's a positive thing," he said. "It will be good to have some company and get people to realize Myrtle Beach is serious about being a first-rate convention destination." 

The beach is ready for high-end hotels, Brakefield said. 

"We hear a lot from meeting planners who say they are looking for that type of property," she said. 

Some of the hotel's neighbors haven't been as excited. A chiller was so loud, it violated the city's noise ordinance; but crews have fixed that by changing belt sizes to reduce the sound, Hull said. 

The hotel tried to ease the neighbors' other concerns through a city-approved agreement requiring Marriott to plant trees and repaint a cooling tower to match the main building. The hotel can't get its occupancy certificate until those things are done. 

"We want our neighbors to be happy," Hull said. "Once the project is completed, I think the neighbors will be very happy." 

Contact Dawn Bryant at 626-0296 or dbryant@thesunnews.com. 

-----To see more of The Sun News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.MyrtleBeachOnline.com 

(c) 2003, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. MAR, 


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