It’s “a good story to tell.”
The tourism market may be flat in Manatee County, Elliott Falcione said, but area hoteliers are “smart enough” to get their desired rate.
That’s the picture Falcione, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, painted for the broad look at area tourism at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.
Walter Klages, of Research Data Services, made the presentation that prompted Falcione’s remark — and agreed.
Looking at the numbers for the current fiscal year, from October 2016-June 2017 — Klages said occupancy of county lodging venues had dropped slightly, 0.4 percent, from 75.4 percent to 75.1 percent, due to a recent increase in lodging inventory.
That’s the “flat” part.
But resort tax collection increased in June by double-digit percentages, year over year, in all three cities on Anna Maria Island. Holmes Beach venues collected $346,339, or 27.6 percent of the tax. Anna Maria collected $234,476, or 18.7 percent. Bradenton Beach collected $117,451, or 9.4 percent.
Future success at some of the new venues could result in older venues renovating. Meanwhile the average daily room rate was up 3.3 percent — year over year — from $171.20 to $176.80, as venues were able to increase nightly or weekly rates. Revenue per available room — another key guideline called RevPAR — was up 2.8 percent, from $131.80 to $135.50.
Visitation was up 3.4 percent, while the economic impact of tourists — which results in wage and employment increases — was up 5.4 percent for a total impact of $762 million October-June.
“I find that to be very, very fascinating,” Klages said.
Visitor origins — where tourists come from — remained similar to previous time periods, with the number of Floridians visiting Manatee County up 5.3 percent, from 124,700 to 131,320, those from the Northeast up 3.6 percent, 117,210 to 121,390, Midwesterners up 5.5 percent, 119,730 to 126,320, European visitors up 3.5 percent, 70,340 to 72,810, and opportunity markets — tourists from cities west of the Mississippi River, such as Dallas — up 3.9 percent, 22,700 to 23,580.
Klages said European tourists do not arrive “on the shores of Manatee” — whether by air to area airports or by cars from other destinations — by accident. “This is something that we have, for better than 15 years, intensively been promoting,” he said.
Despite a poor European economy, he said, Manatee has drawn the “upper-income cream market which is so important because we are just not a basement market type of destination.” Later Klages added that “the type of people that we are attracting are more upscale and more well-to-do” than other tourism markets.
Visitation was down 0.6 percent by folks from the Southeast, 49,160 to 48,860. The downturn, Klages said, was likely due to economic conditions in the Atlanta area. Klages called Atlanta “the core of the contraction.”
Visitation by Canadians continues to wane, down 11.2 percent through June, 23,560 to 20,920. Klages cited economic problems in the Toronto, Ontario, area.