DENVER, COLO., May 23, 2019— After seven months of atypical lodging occupancy in nine resort destinations throughout the Southeast due to hurricane damage and recovery, bookings in the past 60 days appear to be shifting back to more familiar and stable pattern. Vermont-based Inntopia released their DestiMetrics* monthly Market Briefing yesterday with a summary of the normalizing patterns.
As of April 30, occupancy for the month of April was up 8.7 percent compared to April 2018 and the Average Daily Rate (ADR) edged up one percent. The increase in rate along with the increased occupancy, delivered a robust 9.8 percent surge in revenues for the month compared to the same time last year.
The picture for the full summer from March through August is also coming into clearer focus. As of April 30, occupancy figures are up in five of the six months with an aggregated 3.4 percent increase in comparison to last year at this time. ADR is also up 2.4 percent for the summer and with the moderate bump up in occupancy, is delivering a healthy 5.9 percent increase in aggregated revenues for the summer.
In contrast to the very strong booking pace during the month of March (which was up 25.5 percent compared to the previous year), the booking pace in April for arrivals in April through September are down a notable 11.5 percent. While bookings made in April for arrivals in that month were actually up 9.9 percent compared to last year, the remaining summer months are tracking well below the same time last year—anywhere from down 13 percent in May to a deep 36.9 percent drop in September.
“After an extended period of turbulence in both operations and data collection in parts of the Southeast, some degree of normal booking patterns are returning,” explained Tom Foley, senior vice president for Business Operations and Analytics for Inntopia. “Along with the dramatic impact on business in some regions in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael back in October, we had some shifting in visitation in March and April based on different timing for spring breaks and the Easter holiday. However, we are now seeing a more familiar early season booking pattern for the coming high season. We’re seeing room rates edging up very slightly for the first few months of summer but gathering strength as we get into the busier summer months.”
Also bolstering continued growth at Southeast destinations is the strong economy. Economic indicators were bolstered during April by continued overall strength in financial markets and employment data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) posted a 2.9 percent gain over March and marked its highest monthly close ever—although not the highest single-day close which occurred last October. Despite dramatic shifts throughout the last six months, the overall trend has been up, and at the April closing, was 6.3 percent higher than April 2018. A strong rebound in consumer perceptions about the economy drove the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) up five points to deliver a nearly full recovery of the 7.2-point slump in March. Like the DJIA, consumer confidence has fluctuated throughout the past six months but remained consistently positive, and overall, advanced 1.2 percent from Oct. 31. The national Unemployment Rate declined from 3.8 to 3.6 percent during April to reach its lowest level since October 1969. Employers added a dramatic 269,000 new jobs during April which was far in excess of analysts’ expectations and in sharp contrast to the anemic 33,000 new jobs added back in February. However, the low unemployment rate is having a negative impact on employers’ ability to find skilled and affordable staff.
“Summer is off to a solid start with gains appearing in occupancy, rate, and revenues,” continued Foley. “However, that sharp drop in the April booking pace is certainly cause for concern since we aren’t sure if it is due to the gradual uptick in daily rates or whether there is something of a ‘hurricane hangover’ based on last fall’s dramatic stormy weather. So, we are urging properties to monitor their booking pace closely in the coming weeks and be prepared to adjust as needed,” 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 nine resort destinations in five states including South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.
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