East Coast Beach Town Realtors See Boost in Summer Bookings Following Harsh Winter

Following a winter that brought brutal cold and numerous snowstorms across much of the eastern United States, realtors and tourism bureaus at popular vacation destinations are getting ready for a much-anticipated summer.

Earlier this month, the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) launched a "Thaw Me Out" social media campaign to allow people who have been snowbound this winter a chance to win a vacation to Myrtle Beach and ‘thaw out.' Contestants become eligible by sharing stories or pictures of how winter weather has hampered them, along with tagging their posts with a #ThawMeOut hashtag.

The CVB has seen a lot of engagement from people who are ready for sun and sand, said Kimberly Miles, a spokesperson for the CVB. Miles added that this is the first time that the CVB has done this specific campaign.

"I think that people really are in that mindset of wanting to get their space and get their vacation times locked in, sooner rather than later," she said.

Surfside Reality Company in nearby Surfside Beach, South Carolina, has already received approximately 600 rental bookings for May compared to 440 for May 2014, said Katie McKenzie, marketing director for the company.

"Our phones started ringing earlier this year than previous years," Mckenzie said. "We think this is due to the weather sparking people to look for a warm summer getaway."

"This winter has been unusually busy for us. We feel that the cold weather has encouraged our snowbirds to stay longer," McKenzie said.

In some cases, people who normally rent in January or February extended their stays until March due to inclement weather back home, or that airlines didn't have flights due to weather, she added.

"We are all looking forward to the summer," Mckenzie said.

In Long Beach Island, New Jersey, vacation rentals are up 30 percent compared to this time last year, according Elaine Atlee, a realtor with Prudential Zack Shore Properties.

One of the primary reasons for the increase is that more homes are repaired and new homes have been built in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, giving realtors a larger inventory to sell from compared to the past two years.

"I think we're back to where we were pre-Sandy," Atlee said.

Throughout the winter, Atlee said many customers were calling and booking vacations for June, July and August, typically the peak vacation season for Long Beach Island.

"A lot of people, when they were stuck in their homes, were on the internet and on the phone, calling us, booking rentals," Atlee said.

John Magathan, a realtor with Resort Rentals in Ocean City, Maryland, said their current rental numbers are 10 percent ahead of last year, but they typically don't see the bulk of their bookings until May.

While Resort Rentals saw a good amount of activity earlier this year, Magathan said he didn't know if it was because of the harsh winter. He said typically there are two types of buyers: Those who have a specific property in mind and book way ahead and others who seem more willing to compromise and wait until it gets closer to summer.

Resort Rentals is still anticipating a large amount of bookings, he added.

Jessica Waters, communications manager for Ocean City, said it's typical to see a spike in visitors in the spring, with more weekend traffic in the summer. Still, they are still planning a variety of springtime events, including the city's annual Springfest in May, one of their kickoff events to the summer season.

After being cooped up all winter due to frigid conditions, the 50-degree days almost feel like 80 F sometimes, Waters said.

"We're excited just like everybody else [for] those temperatures to start creeping up and for everyone to get outside and enjoy Ocean City," she said.