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News Tourism and Storm Recovery Combine for Strong Winter – Pattern Carries Into Summer Bookings

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photo of the author Jane Babilon

BRADENTON, Fla., March 20, 2019— The most recent DestiMetrics* Market Briefing for the Southeast region released yesterday by Inntopia, provided the final results for participating lodging properties for both the month of February and for the full winter season from September through February.  As of Feb. 28, actual aggregated occupancy for the month of February was up 11.5 percent compared to February 2018 while the Average Daily Rate (ADR) was up 3.2 percent in a year-over-year (YOY) comparison to the previous February. The combination of increased occupancy and daily rate delivered an impressive 15 percent increase in revenue compared to last February.

Aggregated results for the full winter were also strong. Occupancy for the six-month winter season finished 15.9 percent higher than Winter 2017-18 with increases in all six months. September showed the weakest gains during the period with a YOY increase of 6.6 percent—but was still impressive considering the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael. The ADR for the winter months also edged up 1.7 percent compared to last winter and when coupled with the strong growth in occupancy, delivered a robust 18 percent increase in revenue. Nine Southeast tourist destinations in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia contribute to the monthly data round-up and are included in the aggregated data.

“Hurricane Michael certainly had an influence on results this winter, but it varied by region with some areas having stronger visitation than others in the aftermath of the storm,” explained Tom Foley, senior vice president for Business Operations and Analytics for Inntopia. “What we are consistently seeing though, is that winter’s leisure travel market continues to grow at a healthy pace when we look at a year-over-year comparison.”

Looking towards summer, the booking pace, which is reservations taken during the month of February for the next six months, was mixed. Bookings taken for arrivals in March, April, and June were down while bookings taken for arrivals in February, May, and July were all up compared to last year at this time. The month of July showed the greatest booking growth during the month of February—up 15.2 percent in a YOY comparison.

Overall, aggregated occupancy for the upcoming summer for March through August is up 2.1 percent, ADR is up 1.9 percent, and the modest growth in both categories is delivering an aggregated four percent increase in revenue.

Economic indicators for February were mostly supportive of the continued strength of the season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose a sharp 4.1 percent from January and continued the recovery that started at the end of the partial government shutdown on Jan. 25. The DJIA is 3.8 percent higher than it was in February 2018. Consumers continued to exhibit confidence in present market conditions as the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) bounced up eight percent to finish above 130 points for the sixth time in the past 12 months. The national Unemployment Rate dropped from four percent in January to 3.8 percent in February as fewer people were job hunting once the government shutdown ended. However, employers added only 20,000 new jobs in February–well below the 190,000 jobs expected. Wages once again increased during the month to help bolster consumer confidence.

“As we take a final look at the past winter, there is some pretty impressive growth in both occupancy and revenues throughout the region compared to last year. Some of that growth was the result of circumstances following Hurricane Michael but leisure travel continues to be a well-established growth trend,” continued Foley. “And now, with the high summer season starting to pick up, we are seeing a more typical booking return among frequent independent travelers. A relatively flat ADR for the past year seems to be part of buoying up the increased occupancy–a pattern that has been emerging across the entire destination travel industry,” 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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