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Trends Despite Hurricanes, Southeast Destination Travel Showing Stability

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photo of the author Katie Barnes

As of Aug. 31, aggregated actual occupancy for August was up 1.6 percent and revenues were up 2.2 percent for the month compared to the same time last year according to data released by Inntopia in their monthly DestiMetrics* Market Briefing for participating southeastern destinations. The Briefing also revealed that for the summer season that includes the six months of May through October, actual occupancy has crept up 0.5 percent while revenues are up a slight 1.3 percent for the summer compared to Summer 2016.

“While Hurricane Harvey had made landfall and was wreaking havoc on Texas cities and towns by Aug. 31, that weather catastrophe did not appear to have an immediate significant impact on participating southeast destinations,” explained Tom Foley, vice president of Business Intelligence for Inntopia. “There is some anecdotal and data evidence that hasn’t yet been confirmed, that some travelers altered their travel from Texas along with some evacuees to destinations east of the storm impacted areas. “However, the larger story for southeastern destinations was Hurricane Irma, which had a dramatic and direct impact on many southeastern destinations, particularly Florida, and to some degree through the Gulf states and Carolinas,” he continued.

Foley went on to clarify his remarks by saying, “unfortunately, this month’s data was collected just before Irma hit so until we obtain the booking, occupancy, and revenue data collected during September, we won’t know the measurable effects of Irma on business at southeastern resorts for the month and or have a realistic forecast for the upcoming six months for a couple more weeks.”

DestiMetrics is a forward-looking data-based performance report that collects advanced reservation lodging information from multiple participating destination resorts and then provides individualized and aggregated results to those subscribers—lodging properties, destination marketing organizations, and local chambers of commerce. Information is released in a Monthly Market Briefing and is designed to deliver lodging reservation activity to assist with budgeting, staffing, and marketing for participating destinations.

This month’s data also includes booking information for arrivals beginning in August and through the month of January. Bookings made in August for August arrivals were up a whopping 50.3 percent compared to the same period last year, much of in the last two weeks of the month, a jump likely due in part to short-lead bookings made in the wake of the Texas storms. September and October bookings are down while the winter months are mixed: November is down 7.8 percent, December is up 9.6 percent and January dives down 57.9 percent compared to the same time last year.

“It has certainly been a historically tough hurricane season with two months yet to go,” continued Foley.  “Compounding the recovery process is the stark media coverage that goes along with such catastrophic storms, making it difficult for locations that suffered a direct hit as well as destinations in surrounding regions who often struggle against the perceived association of resort damage and disruption—even if the impact in their area was minor,” he added.

Next month’s report will include data through Sept. 30 and is expected to deliver a clearer understanding of the effect of Harvey. It will also reveal the first detailed view of Hurricane Irma’s impact on bookings in southeastern destinations–not only actual occupancy and revenues for the last two months of summer but also will provide a better perspective on booking patterns going into the winter months and the longer term impact of these storms,” he added.

Robust economic indicators are contributing to the stability of destination travel in the southeast. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.3 percent in August and finished 3,544 points higher than one year ago. The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) also rose 2.4 percent for a second consecutive month and is 20.7 percent higher than it was in August 2016. Once again, employers contributed by adding 156,000 new jobs. The Briefing noted though that despite the sustained job growth since May of 2016 and an Unemployment Rate below five percent for that same time period, earnings continue to lag behind the rest of the economic recovery.

“Strength on Wall Street, in job creation, and in consumer confidence despite ongoing concerns around domestic tax reform, health care, and geopolitical agitation in North Korea should lend stability to southeastern destination travel in the longer term as repairs and recovery progress,” observed Foley. “But this is aggregated data for multiple resort destinations in four states and results vary from destination to destination and even property to property,” he cautioned.

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