Sarasota Occupancy Up In March

Todays News


Months after red tide publicity inspired countless cancellation, Visit Sarasota reports increases in occupancy and rooms rented for March compared to last year.

It’s good news to share as the agency hosts its annual luncheon today at 11:30am at Michael’s On East, and celebrates National Travel and Tourism Week.

Lodging occupancy for March climbed slightly, about 1.7 percent from last year, to about 89.6 percent countywide. Meanwhile, the raw number of room nights sold in March jumped 6.3 percent to 392,200.

“It’s successful marketing,” says Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. “One of the things we did this year was to move a lot our marketing to the beginning of the calendar year. We don’t normally do a lot of marketing during season, but we knew we had to have a good season this time.”

Not all metrics climbed. Average room rates in March dropped to $241.79, about a 3.1 percent decline from last year. But more than red tide, that’s largely a market result of so many new hotel rooms in the region coming online this year, Haley says. That occupancy still grew shows a sign demand is continuing to drive up for visitors to the region, she says.

The luncheon today will include handing out the “Faces of Travel” awards to hospitality players and partners in the area. Visit Sarasota has kept mum on the winner of this year’s Voice Of Sarasota Award. The honor always goes to someone outside the tourism industry but who raises the positive profile of the region. Haley wouldn’t disclose a winner but offered a hint.

“In the past, we’ve had sportscasters, circus performers, but one area that has gone largely unsung is in the outdoors and nature world,” she says. “We will be honoring someone in that realm.”

Photo Courtesy Visit Sarasota: Tourism bureau markets St. Armands Key culinary tours.

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