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South Carolina's Grand Strand Hotel Industry Should Prepare
for Audits Under a Department of Labor Initiative

By Jake Spring, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 10, 2010--Grand Strand hospitality businesses should prepare to be audited under a Department of Labor initiative targeting the industry, a lawyer said.

The audits will target hotels, motels and resorts and look for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers must keep complete records and meet requirements applying to minimum wage, overtime pay and tips. Visa requirements for foreign workers also will be checked.

Department of Labor officials did not respond to questions about the audits this week.

"If you're in the industry and you operate a hotel, you could get a call Friday at 5 o'clock [for example] or they could just show up and say, ‘Hey, we're going to audit you,'" said Cherie Blackburn, a lawyer who advises employers preparing for audits.

The auditing initiative began Oct. 1.

The industry is likely being targeted because many employees receive tips or work overtime, Blackburn said. The auditors will likely take a broad survey of the records and, if they notice problems, investigate specific areas.

Blackburn recommends employers do self-audits to ensure they're in compliance.

Go to www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs45.htm for requirements.

Nostalgia lures tourists

An overwhelming majority of families plan their vacation based on memories they want to create, according to a study released last month, and an expert says the Grand Strand could do more to incorporate memories into its brand.

About 88 percent of family vacationers surveyed said they "actively plan vacations with the hope they will result in special memories" for or about their children, according to a survey by Ypartnership, a travel and leisure marketing firm.

The study was commissioned by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts but has implications for the Grand Strand. Memories can help to set a vacation destination apart from competitors, said Rich Harrill, director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel and Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina. Harrill works with communities on their branding.

"Almost every [community] will say, ‘We have nature, we have history, we have culture,'" Harrill said. "But the ones that are successful, they say, ‘We have romance, we have memories, we have nostalgia.' It's all part of the branding."

Nostalgia is particularly important in attracting baby boomers, he said, although there's a fine line between attracting older generations and repelling younger ones. The Grand Strand already celebrates beach music and '50s and '60s culture, which has nostalgic appeal, Harrill said. It's a possibly untapped avenue for branding Myrtle Beach, he said.

"The potential's there," he said. "It's word of mouth."

Contact JAKE SPRING at 626-0310.

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

Copyright (c) 2010, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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