|By Dawn Bryant, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 5, 2005 - The beach's booming time-share business has prompted another oceanfront hotel to convert as the industry continues to grow at record rates.
Bluegreen Corp., one of the nation's largest time-share companies, is expanding in Myrtle Beach with the purchase of The Yachtsman Resort, the company said Tuesday.
The 19-story tower - an oceanfront hotel known for its glass facade and in-room hot tubs - closed Sunday and will be converted to 142 one-bedroom time-share units by the spring. It will be renamed the SeaGlass Tower and become part of Bluegreen's time-share network of 35 resorts and 134,000 owners.
Other details of the deal, including purchase price, weren't disclosed.
Time shares are a hot business along the Grand Strand, prompting a wave of expansions and new names entering the market. Among the current activity:
--Westgate Resorts bought the Holiday Inn Oceanfront in Myrtle Beach.
--Starwood, which owns Sheraton's Broadway Plantation, is building more units at its complex on Robert Grissom Parkway.
--Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. is putting the finishing touches on four new buildings that will add 128 villas at South Beach. Two more buildings, each with 32 units, will be added next year.
--Fairfield Resorts in North Myrtle Beach and Marriott in Myrtle Beach also are expanding.
Horry County has nearly 4,000 time-share units, accounting for almost 10 percent of the county's lodging inventory, according to Coastal Carolina University's Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism. The growth is expected to continue.
"I don't think there is any question about it," said Gary Loftus, director of the CCU center.
Time shares pumped $1.9 billion into South Carolina's economy in 2002, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the American Resort Development Association. With 12,100 units, South Carolina was second to Florida in the number of units in 2002, the latest year data is available.
"It's been incredible [growth]," said Ken McKelvey, chairman of the S.C. Chapter of ARDA, the time-share group.
The Grand Strand is an ideal drive-to market that is popular with vacationers, said Lisa Thornhill, Bluegreen's spokeswoman.
The growth has been so great that the Horry County Council considered adding a nightly fee to overnight stays by guests who don't own their units but swap their stay at time shares in other destinations to come here, a popular trend based on points owners earn. The fee was intended to be similar to the accommodations tax, which time-share owners don't pay. The industry resisted, and the idea fizzled.
Bluegreen, which entered the Myrtle Beach market in 1995, owns two other area complexes: Shorecrest and Harbour Lights. It also is expanding Harbour Lights, buying 5 acres of land earlier this year with plans to add 90 units and more amenities. Once the Yachtsman conversion is complete, Bluegreen will have 631 units in the Myrtle Beach area.
Last year, Bluegreen made 20,509 reservations at its Myrtle Beach properties, Thornhill said.
Unsold weeks at several other resorts in Florida and in buildings next to The Yachtsman also were part of the deal. Bluegreen will take over 287 weeks of unsold time at the two buildings next to The Yachtsman.
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