From beachfront hotels to inland ones, the Thanksgiving weekend is proving to be a promising one for most Lee County hotels. Occupancy levels are high — in some cases higher than ever before — and bookings are picking up for the months to come.
"This is definitely one of the better years for us," said Maureen Killeen, a sales manager for Holiday Inn Select at Bell Tower Shops. "Being an inland property, Thanksgiving is generally slow but we are doing much better for December and we are way over budget."
Tourist season for inland properties doesn't begin until the end of January or early February, she said. This year, most properties are already showing good business on the books for December.
Her hotel already had many sold-out dates for December and overall occupancy is about 80 percent. Killeen said the hotel hopes to get to 90-95 percent with short-term bookings and walk-ins.
In recent years, short-term bookings have played a big role in boosting occupancy levels as more and more people plan vacations closer to the actual dates, said Elizabeth Marwick, general manager of Lover's Key Resort.
Even though the hotel's restaurant is only casual and doesn't typically generate a lot of Thanksgiving business, Marwick said, this weekend looks promising.
"December is looking good and with short-term bookings we will probably do a little better than previous years," Marwick said. "We have been doing a lot of marketing up north and once the snow starts falling, the phone starts ringing."
With colder-than-normal temperatures in some northern spots and high heating costs coupled with the mild season Southwest Florida typically enjoys in the winter, the phones should be ringing plenty, she said.
Tourism generally picks up for beachfront properties sooner than it does for inland ones but even so there seems to be a ripple effect that is benefiting everyone.
Last year, the Best Western at Page Field had a lot of rooms occupied from Hurricane Charley's arrival on Aug. 13 until after Thanksgiving. But even without that business, said General Manager Micheline Lobdell, occupancy is up about 5 percent from last year.
What is not usually a big weekend should be a good weekend for the hotel this year.
It definitely will be for the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point. Of the 454 rooms at the resort, all but 75 are already taken for the weekend. December is picking up rapidly and "January is just insane" said Shara Valerio-Ball, public relations and advertising manager.
The hotel also is having a Thanksgiving day brunch and dinner and 500 of the 600 available spots for dinner are reserved as well.
Marwick summed up the sentiment in area resorts for the coming season.
"It is looking good," she said. "It will be a good season."