Collier County tourism decreases in August

— In August, tourism slowed again in Collier County.

There were 79,600 visitors last month, down 7.2 percent from 85,800 in August 2008, according to a report by Tampa-based Research Data Services Inc., a county consultant.

Expenditures declined 13.6 percent to about $32.6 million. A year ago, they were at nearly $37.8 million.

“The economy remains a problem,” said Walter Klages, president of the Klages Group.

The average occupancy rate was 45.7 percent last month, down 4.9 percent percentage points from August 2008.

Declines in occupancy rates have not been as steep over the past few months, offering signs of hope for a turnaround.

“We are seeing stabilization,” Klages said. “We are seeing growth on the leisure side. But the impacts of the recession are still with us and will be with us for a while.”

The group and meetings business remains slow. It was down nearly 47 percent in August over the same month a year ago.

“It’s a tough market,” Klages said.

On the flip side, leisure — or vacation — travel was up 13.8 percent last month.

The average daily rate was down more than 10 percent at $98.6 in August, compared to a year ago.

“People are shopping for good value. So the hotels in general have found that rate is a way to attract that business,” said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He said rates usually begin to slip in August as summer winds down and September approaches.

Wert doesn’t expect to see any change in the group and meeting business until later next year.

“Leisure numbers are up at the cost of lower rate. So that lower rate, coupled with the meeting business, has really dragged us and all destinations down,” he said.

Though daily rates are down in the county, they are still higher than in most of the other Florida destinations, he said.

Visitor numbers were down in nearly every market tracked by the Klages report. Only Canadian visitation was up — by 2.1 percent.

The county saw fewer tourists from Florida and Europe in August, but visitation from those areas is still up for the year. They continue to be the strongest markets.

“Looking at just a month by itself kind of gives you one perspective,” Klages said. “But what really matters is the trending.”

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