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Trends Lodging in Southeast Destinations Post Big Rate and Revenue Gains for Upcoming Winter During Busy September Booking Period

Golf Tourism

photo of the author Katie Barnes

Momentum continues to grow for resort destinations in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina as they launched the six-month winter season in September with strong results in both occupancy and rate. The results for a dramatic September booking pace were released yesterday by DestiMetrics,* a division of Inntopia that tracks and monitors occupancy, rate, and revenue in their monthly Market Briefing. The monthly analysis includes aggregated results for five Southeast destinations across the three states.  Results are from data collected through Sept. 30.

The report revealed an increasingly impressive recovery from the devastating declines experienced last Spring during the first weeks and months following the COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns and closures. However, the Briefing’s author is quick to emphasize that the remarkable rebound has to be considered in comparison to previous years when hurricanes moved through much of the region causing the closure of many properties and skewing year-over-year comparisons.

As of Sept. 30, actual aggregated occupancy for the month of September was up a substantial 37.1 percent compared to September 2019. The Average Daily Rate (ADR) rose a strong 23.9 percent in a year-over-year comparison and the combination of both metrics delivered a dramatic 69.8 percent increase in revenue compared to last September.

Once again, a dizzying booking pace during September for the upcoming winter months was attention-grabbing. Bookings made during the month of September for arrivals in the six months from September through February were up a formidable 54.5 percent in a year-over-year comparison. And the trend of short-lead bookings accelerated in September with bookings made in September for arrivals in the same month—less than 30 days in advance—up an astounding 555 percent compared to the booking pace last September for arrivals in that month. The rest of the winter months were mixed—bookings for November and January were down but October, December, and February all showed appreciable growth.

“To the credit of the regional lodging industry, pent-up demand remains strong and properties are doing a good job of capturing visitors,” explained Tom Foley, senior vice president for Business Operations and Analytics for Inntopia. “But, as dazzling as the growth trend appears to be at first glance, when making a year-over-year comparison to last September, you have to consider that Hurricane Dorian that roared through the Southeast last September generated a huge number of cancellations for September arrivals across North and South Carolina,” he continued. “In fact, the booking deficit for both last September and October for the entire region is a strong contributor to the booming booking pace we saw in September.”

That continued robust booking pace has positioned the Southeast region for a relatively healthy winter season as of Sept. 30. Full winter occupancy is currently down only 2.5 percent for the winter compared to the same time last year with ADR for the full six months up an impressive 22.8 percent over last year. That sharp increase in rates is more than enough to offset the dip in occupancy for the season and winter revenues are up 19.7 percent.

Economic measurements

Along with other societal dynamics, economic indicators are expected to have an influence on travel decisions made by consumers in the months ahead. In September, he Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was volatile throughout the month and finished down 2.3 percent marking the first decline in the Index since the steep plunges last February and March. However, it still remains 3.2 percent higher than it was last September. In contrast, the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) reflected rising consumer optimism by adding 15.5 points to take it over the 100-point threshold (101.8) for the first time since March.  The national Unemployment Rate dropped to 7.9 percent (down from 8.4 percent in August) to bring it to its lowest levels since March when it was 4.4 percent.  However, employers added only 661,000 new jobs in September which was considerably below expectations. Overall, the U.S. economy has only recovered slightly more than half of the 22 million jobs lost in the immediate wake of the pandemic declaration in mid-March.

“The first month of the ‘low’ winter season in the Southeast has been anything but low or slow this year,” Foley observed. “To see these strong year-over-years gains not only in the recent booking pace but in winter rates and revenues is very encouraging. That said, the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 cases and rising fatalities, a frequently volatile economy, 11 million people still unemployed, and a contentious election year that could impact the economy and consumer behavior all still have the potential to negatively impact destination travel to the Southeast in the months ahead,” he concluded.




*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 the Southeast is derived from five resort destinations in three states including South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.


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