The Southwest Florida travel and tourism industry can be looking forward to pleasant arrival numbers, just for the upcoming holidays.
The October’s bed tax report and a national study of consumer intentions made for Lee County Tourist Development Council in Florida has a positive outlook.
While meeting Friday afternoon at Fort Myers Beach’s Diamond Head resort, the tourism council learned:
• Preliminary bed tax collections for October topped $1.2 million, for a 7.4 percent increase over preliminary collections for October 2012.
• That preliminary number is a 5.5 percent increase over the final collection for October 2012, which was $1,153,894.
Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global, shared survey-based numbers that suggest affluent Americans have regained their appetite for leisure travel. From the Travel Horizons national report in July that looked six months ahead:
Sixty percent of respondents said they planned to take a leisure trip in the next six months. That’s up from 53 percent of respondents in July 2012.
For respondents of the highest two income brackets, the greater travel intention was even more pronounced:
• Of households earning $100,000 or more annually, 76 percent planned to take a leisure trip, up from 68 percent the previous year.
• For households earning $50,000-$99,000 a year, 62 percent intended to travel for leisure, up from 54 percent in July 2012.
“These are seven-year historical highs,” Reid said.
On spending intentions:
• Twenty-one percent of respondents planned to spend more on leisure trips between August and January, up from 14 percent.
• Seventeen percent planned to spend less, up 3 percentage points from that period a year ago.
Reid noted the margin for less spending was smaller than that for more spending. “In aggregate, this is good news,” Reid said.
At the Pink Shell resort on Fort Myers Beach, leisure travel demand is ramping up more quickly than the corporate meetings side, said Ellis Etter, sales and marketing director. “The mom-and-pops — which is our niche — are still holding back,” Etter said. He added that weddings remain a strong income stream for the resort.
“We’re seeing bookings up in December, but more importantly in January, February and March,” said Jeff Webb, owner and general manager at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Fort Myers.
But despite signs of an improving economy and consumer interest, Webb thinks hoteliers still are short-changing themselves in their room rate schedules.
Webb ties the “rate war” to people who snapped-up struggling hotels during the recession, and have lower mortgages. Long-term, he said, deeply discounting room rates is a bad tactic.
At hotels, “lower rate doesn’t mean you attract more people,” Webb said, adding: “A lower rate means you make less money.”