Tourism Enjoys Profits Leading into Holiday Weekend

Todays News

Graphic: Hotels report revenue per available room has continued to grow year over year. Data courtesy Visit Sarasota.

It used to be Memorial Day marked the start of Sarasota’s slow season. But with a major sporting event in town and tourism to the region continuing to set records , hospitality leaders feel good about this holiday weekend.

“Talking to a couple of hotels, occupancy looks solid and room rates look even better,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota.

After the COVID-19 pandemic briefly ground tourism to a halt in the spring of 2020, including a lockdown that significantly impacted tourism in April that year, this region saw one fo the strongest recoveries in the state or nation. Haley said the Sarasota region and the Florida Keys led the state in tourism recovery in 2021.

At this point, tourism options have opened up beyond Florida. Business travel and conferences still haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. But leisure tourism has been so strong that local hotels have enjoyed a boon— as have tourism tax collections in the region.

This Memorial Day weekend, the region will feel a bump thanks to the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championship hosted at Nathan Benderson Park.

But more than occupancy, the industry itself often looks to a profit metric known as revenue per available room, or RevPAR. During the lockdown in April 2020, the region saw RevPAR drop by 89% from prior years to less than $14. This calendar year, RevPAR in Sarasota County jumped above $315 briefly in March. Last week, hotels made about $141 in profit per available room.

“Last year was the best year we’ve ever had, and occupancy may level off because people have more choices,” Haley said.

Indeed, the last week of March marked the first time in more than a year when hotels reported occupancies had dropped year-over-year. But while occupancy for the year is about 13% down from the record hospitality in 2021, hotels are making more money from every hotel stay. Moreover, Haley said, travelers are spending more.

Looking ahead, summer continues to attract a different type of visitors. More Florida tourists come to the area for staycations.

Of note, Haley said one of the reasons conferences haven’t been able to return fully is because hotels continue to have such high interest from leisure travel that there remain occupancy issues for hosting business events. That could mean whenever recreation visitors wane, there could be business bookings waiting for the opportunity to book rooms in bulk. Until then, hotels are happy to fill rooms with tourists paying higher rates.

“Barring outside forces, it looks like our summer is going to be very strong,” Haley said.

Graphic: Hotels report revenue per available room has continued to grow year over year. Data courtesy Visit Sarasota.

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