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News Strong Daily Rates and Rising Revenue are Boosting Resort Destinations in Southeast Region for Winter Season (Multi-year comparison adds context)

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photo of the author Katie Barnes

 Nov 17, 2020

Partly because of comparisons to marginal visitation last September and October, and partly because consumers are flocking to resort destinations  in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, the six-month winter season measured from September through February is roaring ahead of last winter at this same time. The extraordinary data was released yesterday by DestiMetrics,* a division of Inntopia, in their monthly Market Briefing to participating regions in five Southeast destinations across the three states.  Aggregated results include metrics for occupancy, rate, and revenues through Oct. 31.

September’s red-hot booking pace cooled down slightly during October but still posted markedly improved year-over-year growth compared to last year. Bookings made during October for arrivals from October through March are up 11.2 percent with the most dramatic growth in November, up a dramatic 34.9 percent and December up an even more stellar 49.5 percent.

Aggregated occupancy for the single month of October was also up a solid 5.4 percent compared to last October in a year-over-year comparison. Also, during the month, the Average Daily Rate (ADR) was up a sturdy 17.3 percent. The increases in both categories delivered a considerable 23.7 percent increase in aggregated revenues for the month among participating properties.

Despite ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the economy, the projections for the full winter season are also looking rosy with the first two months of the season already finishing well ahead of Winter 2019-20. As of Oct. 31, occupancy is up 2.3 percent for the full season compared to last year at this time led by September, October, and December. ADR for the same six-month period is up a robust 22.8 percent and the growth in both metrics is showing an impressive 25.6 percent increase in revenue for the winter.

“Occupancy gains definitely slowed down in October from the dramatic surge we reported in September, but that softening has less to with this year than last. It is important to realize September 2019 was unusually sluggish because of all the storm activity last fall, helping to make September 2020 a particularly strong month in a year-over-year comparison,” clarified Tom Foley, senior vice president of Business Analytics for Inntopia. “The pattern for occupancy we’re seeing now is actually more typical for this time of year, but the really stunning difference is how skyrocketing increases in daily rates are not deterring visitors from booking these resorts.”

Economic variables

A review of key economic indicators at the end of October showed mixed results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped a steep 4.6 percent during October on the heels of the 2.3 percent decline in September. That leaves the DJIA two percent lower than it was at the same time last year. Also slipping back, the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) declined 0.4 percent after a strong showing in September. This is the third time in the past four months that the CCI has dipped down, but at 101.3 points, it remains above the psychologically significant 100-point threshold.

On an upbeat note, the national Unemployment Rate dropped from 7.9 percent to 6.9 percent in October, boosted by the unexpectedly higher influx of new jobs during the month—638,000. Unemployment is currently well below the recent 14.7 unemployment that was posted last April. to bring it to its lowest levels since March when it was 4.4 percent.

“Despite the strong jobs report, there are several variables putting negative pressure on the economy,” Foley explained. “A significant increase in October from 2.4 to 3.6 million individuals that have been unemployed for 26 weeks puts a strain on financial support systems like unemployment insurance. Of additional concern is that new unemployment claims remain high with 751,000 new claims last week and indicating that the rapid spread of COVID-19 continues to prevent a full-fledged economic recovery.”

Foley also included an additional economic caveat this month about the activity of the stock market in the previous two days. He noted that “the dramatic increase in the DJIA and other international stock markets was driven by the announcement of a promising COVID-19 vaccine and has little to do with underlying economic conditions.”

Although acknowledging that committed travelers are providing very high value bookings so far this season, Foley summarized the Briefing on a cautionary note. “COVID-19 cases are increasing dramatically both in the Southeast and around the country and we have emphasized that consumers, properties, marketing organizations, and governmental responses have varied wildly from state-to-state and even county-to-county. With that kind of uncertainty throughout the region and US, it is uncertain if these strong numbers will remain sustainable,” he concluded.

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

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