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BOOKING PACE AT SOUTHEAST DESTINATIONS DROPS SHARPLY IN MARCH; DAILY RATES REMAIN STRONG
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Following two consecutive months of a robust booking pace at resort destination properties in four southeastern states–South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama—as of March 31, the booking pace for arrivals for the upcoming summer season from March through August dropped a sharp 18.7 percent compared to the same time last year. The latest data was released yesterday by Vermont-based Inntopia in their monthly DestiMetrics Market Briefing. The monthly report also includes actual occupancy, rate and revenue results for the month of March along with a forward look at how occupancy and revenues are shaping up through the end of August.

Aggregated actual occupancy for the month of March, designated as the first month of the high summer season, was up 8.8 percent compared to March 2017. The Average Daily Rate (ADR) for the month also climbed up 5.4 percent and led to an overall 14.7 percent increase in revenue for March compared to last year. For the full summer perspective, as of March 31, overall occupancy for March through August is up a slight 1.6 percent compared to the summer of 2017 while ADR is up 3.5 percent for the summer and revenues are up 5.2 percent. Occupancy for three of the six months—April, May, and July—are down compared to last summer at this time.

“Even though March bookings for the upcoming summer showed a sharp decline, there were two contributing factors that have to be considered when evaluating the situation,” explained Tom Foley, vice president of Business Intelligence for Inntopia. “First, daily room rates are up this summer compared to last summer which can cool down bookings, but also having an impact on the slower booking pace was the fact that last March was an exceptionally strong month for bookings due to a mid-April Easter holiday and more attractive room rates for last summer. So, in a year-over-year comparison, the drop looks pretty dramatic but the strength of bookings from the previous two months is still keeping summer numbers running ahead of last year,” he continued.

Uncertainty and volatility on Wall Street persisted into March as the U.S. and Chinese governments raised tariffs on certain imports and increased the rhetoric about future trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) declined 3.7 percent during the month leaving it 9.4 percent below the all-time high recorded 60 days earlier. Other indexes and international markets also reacted to the U.S. and Chinese positions but despite the instability, the DJIA remains 16.6 percent higher than at this same time last year. The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) slipped a modest 2.2 percent in March as consumer’s outlook about current business conditions and the stock market dipped although overall confidence remains high. Employers added an anemic 103,000 jobs during the month, which was well below projections. The figures for January and February were also adjusted down a combined 50,000 from prior estimates but the Unemployment Rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent for the sixth consecutive month.

“Despite some dramatic swings in the market and geopolitical forces having an impact, consumers continue to remain positive about the economy,” reported Foley. “The overall strength of the economy is giving lodging properties in southeastern resort destinations and other service providers an advantage as they set pricing and anticipate bookings,” he continued.

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DestiMetrics, part of the Business Intelligence platform for Stowe-based Inntopia, tracks resort performance in selected mountain and southeast U.S. destinations. They compile forward-looking reservation data each month and provide individualized and aggregated results to subscribers at participating resorts.

Data from southeastern destinations is derived from seven resort destinations including Hilton Head, SC; Golden Isles, GA; Florida Keys & Key West, FL; Osceola County (Kissimmee), FL; Okaloosa County, FL: Panama City Beach, FL; and Alabama Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL. Results may vary significantly among/between resorts and participating properties.

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