Strategic rate management and positive messaging is being credited with taking a potentially disastrous winter season for southeastern resort destinations and turning it into a success. As of Feb. 28, aggregated occupancy among participating lodging properties in four states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama) achieved a 12.7 percent gain in occupancy for the six months from September through February compared to last winter. The upbeat news was delivered on Monday by Inntopia in their monthly DestiMetrics Market Briefing, that included a wrap up of the winter season and a first look at bookings for the upcoming traditionally high season months of March through August. The Average Daily Rate (ADR) for the winter season was down 1.4 percent compared to last winter but with the surge in occupancy, aggregated revenues were up 11.2 percent compared to the winter of 2016-17.
“We’ve seen a remarkably consistent pattern of double-digit growth in each successive winter month this year that was sparked by slightly reduced room rates,” explained Tom Foley, vice president of Business Intelligence for Inntopia. “Along with positive post-hurricane messaging, lodging properties attracted visitors with lower rates. As bookings and occupancy continued to rise month after month, properties could gradually raise their rates as lodging demand rose and the available supply of rooms decreased.”
Topping off the winter season, the month of February finished with an aggregated 13.7 percent year-over-year gain in occupancy and a 13.6 percent gain in revenue.
The momentum that pushed winter lodging to steady and consistent growth over the winter is continuing into the summer season–March through August. As of Feb. 28, occupancy for the six-month high season is up 7.9 percent compared to last summer with increases in all six months led by August and March. The ADR is essentially flat compared to the summer of 2016 but the surging number of bookings has revenues up 8.1 percent.
Strong and steady economic indicators have contributed to consumer optimism and willingness to spend discretionary dollars on destination travel. Although the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced some volatility during the month and dropped back 4.3 percent during February, it remains 20.3 percent higher than February 2017. Despite the swings in some market indexes, the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rose a sharp 5.2 percent to 130.8 points to reach its highest level since the end of the Clinton Administration in November 2000. Employers added a dramatic 313,000 new jobs that was well above the 200,000 jobs projected and for the fifth consecutive month, the Unemployment Rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent. However, wage growth stalled in February after posting some gains in January.
“Consumers appear confident that the economy will sustain its strong expansion in the months ahead,” reported Foley. “Increases in interest rates are expected to keep inflation in check but with such strong economic fundamentals, discretionary spending on travel is likely to be unaffected by market fluctuations,” he continued.
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 southeastern destinations is derived from seven resort destinations including Hilton Head, SC; Golden Isles, GA; Florida Keys & Key West, FL; Osceola County (Kissimmee), FL; Okaloosa County, FL: Panama City Beach, FL; and Alabama Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL. Results may vary significantly among/between resorts and participating properties.
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