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Trends Southeast Destination Lodging is Crushing Pre-Pandemic Records

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photo of the author Katie Barnes

 Apr 14, 2021

After achieving record-setting seasonal rates and revenue for the winter season that ended in February, the most recent results released yesterday by DestiMetrics,* a division of Vermont-based Inntopia in their monthly Market Briefing, revealed that those upward trends are continuing to surpass results from both last year and the previous year at participating resort properties in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Beginning this month, the monthly analysis will include year-over-year comparisons to the previous year as well as comparisons to the same time two years ago. The two-year assessment allows comparison to lodging activity to last year’s pandemic circumstances and to a more typical year of recreational travel. Data is for occupancy, Average Daily Rate (ADR), and revenues through March 31.

The summer season that extends from March through August got underway with dramatic increases in a year-over-year comparison to last March. Occupancy was up 51.1 percent compared to March 2020 when lodging properties experienced the initial closures and restrictions due to the pandemic that resulted in dramatic cancellations. ADR is up 40.7 percent and increases in both metrics led to a formidable 112.6 percent increase in revenue for the month.

To illustrate a more accurate comparison, the Briefing also compared the data to the same time two years ago. The results showed that actual occupancy for March was up five percent compared to March 2019 while the ADR is up a whopping 29.6 percent compared to two years ago and delivered a 36.1 percent increase in revenue for the month.

Entire summer showing impressive strength

The trajectory for the summer is showing continued strength. As of March 31, on-the-books occupancy for the full six months is up a whopping 76.9 percent compared to last year at this time but when contrasted to two years ago at this time, occupancy is still up 15.7 percent.

More impressively for the upcoming summer, the Average Daily Rate (ADR) surged an aggregated 14.1 percent compared to the previous summer to deliver an extraordinary 101.8  percent increase in revenue for the summer season. And while not as dramatic as the single-year comparison, when the upcoming summer is compared to Summer 2019, ADR is up 22.3 percent compared to two years ago with gains in all six months. The result of higher on-the-books occupancy and rate increases is a remarkable 41.4 percent increase in aggregated summer revenues compared to the same period in 2019.

“The record-setting rate and revenue momentum that Southeast destinations experienced through most of the winter is showing no signs of slowing down as the region revs up for the busiest months of the year,” observed Tom Foley, senior vice president for Business Operations and Analytics for Inntopia. “While many tourist destinations struggled in the past 13 months, the Southeast set an entirely different path, has recovered strongly from the depths of the pandemic, and is now pacing well ahead of the records set before the pandemic in the summer of 2019.”

Economic Indicators

Continuing to build on February’s positive momentum, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gained a very strong 6.62 percent and marks the second consecutive record-high monthly close. Credit is being given to increasing vaccination rates, broader re-opening policies around the country, and investors reacting to rising consumer confidence and the impact of federal stimulus payments as well as modest declines in first-time unemployment claims. Growing optimism about economic growth and the improving job market helped drive a strong increase in the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) during March, including a slight upward adjustment to the February numbers. The 21.3 percent surge brought the CCI above 100 points for the third time since March and its highest level since that time.

Good news also emerged on the jobs front as the national Unemployment Rate declined from 6.2 percent in February to six percent in March boosted by the dramatic addition of 916,000 new jobs during the month which was nearly double the previous month. The Leisure and Hospitality sector added 280,000 of those jobs while bars and restaurants captured 176,000 of the new positions. Additionally, 347,000 workers who had suspended their job search in the previous months re-entered the job hunt during March, signaling optimism about returning opportunities.

“For destination properties in the Southeast, rate and occupancy momentum that started upon re-opening in late May have continued to pick up steam in the ensuing months and set an all-time record for the winter season. And now, that momentum is carrying into the summer season,” noted Foley. “With economic conditions improving, and vaccination rates soaring, the region is poised for another record-breaking season,” he continued.  “That said, as tourism destinations around the country begin opening up in earnest, the region may start facing a lot more competition for visitors and that could trigger some rate adjustments as destinations vie to capture all that pent-up demand for a summer vacation,” Foley 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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