Collier tourism up 5.4 percent in April, boosted by first-time visitors

— There are more first-timers in Naples.

In April, two out of every five visitors who came to Collier County were new – a noticeable increase over last year, according to a monthly report by Tampa-based Research Data Services Inc.

The new faces helped drive a more than 5 percent increase in the number of visitors staying in hotels and other vacation rentals in the county last month, statistics released Tuesday show.

"That indicates that we are gaining some market share. That is good news," said Jack Wert, Collier County's tourism director.

The county saw 121,300 visitors in April. That was up 5.4 percent from the 115,100 seen in the same month last year, according to Research Data Services.

Last month, 42.5 percent of Collier's visitors were first-timers – and 6.4 percent of those were in Florida for the first time, up from 4.9 percent a year ago.

"It doesn't appear to be that much. It is," Walter Klages, president of Research Data Services, told the Tourist Development Council at a meeting Tuesday.

First-timers are important because they can become repeat visitors and help spread the word about the destination to others who don't know about it.

Collier is gaining more visitors from other parts of Florida, as well as other states, Klages said.

In April, the county saw visitor numbers grow from most of its feeder markets. From other parts of Florida, they rose 1.8 percent; from the Northeast they were up 11.6 percent and from the Midwest they increased 11.1 percent.

Visitation from Canada grew by a little more than 25 percent and from Europe it rose 9.5 percent.

From the Southeast, visitor numbers fell more than 14 percent last month; Wert said he wasn't sure why.

"I think the Southeast will come back. We get that summer travel from Atlanta south. I think we will start to see that increase in May," he said.

In April, the county saw a more than 20 percent drop in visitation from so-called opportunity markets in the U.S., which are markets that aren't targeted by the county's tourism advertising.

Last month, tourism spending reached $158.2 million in the county, up 10 percent over the same month last year. Occupancy increased 2.5 percent, rising to 78 percent, and the average daily rate grew 2.9 percent to more than $223, according to Research Data Services.

A separate study by Smith Travel Research Inc., a market research company headquartered in Tennessee, showed that occupancy in the Naples market overall grew 1 percent to 71.5 percent – but that it fell 1.7 percent to 78.7 percent for the upscale market — year-over-year. That study only tracks occupancies at major hotels and doesn't include condominiums like the study done by Research Data Services.

The Smith Travel report showed the average daily rate in the Naples market overall increased 3.2 percent to $207.87 in April. For the upscale market, it rose 4.9 percent to $276.72. In competitive markets in Florida, only the Florida Keys had higher daily rates overall last month and Klages described the area as "almost like a different world."

He said the higher average daily rate in Naples is a "reflection of the quality of what you are offering."

More than 22 percent of the visitors who came to the county in April were traveling for group meetings or other business, according to Research Data Services.

From January through April, Collier saw 672,800 visitors, up 7.3 percent from the same months a year ago. Visitor numbers have been increasing every month this year.

Klages recapped the value of tourism last year. It had a total economic impact of nearly $1.3 billion, supporting 30,600 jobs and generating more than $865 million in direct visitor spending. Visitors spent more than $82.5 million in sales and gas taxes.

"This is an incredibly important industry for your county," Klages said.

__ Connect with Laura Layden at

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Comments » 3

condoseller writes:

This is great news for Collier County and Marco Island!

Ruger writes:

Its no secret that Americans are leaving States that have very high taxes, they would not be headed here if we had elected a Tax & Spend Liberal.

Thank You Governor Rick Scott!!

New Yorkers Leave Like East Germans Fled Communism...

From 1949 to 1961, more than 2.6 million of East Germany's 17 million population escaped to West Berlin or West Germany, a hemorrhage of humanity that led the Communists to construct the infamous Berlin Wall in 1961.

The state of New York, with about 19.5 million people, has no known plans to erect concrete barriers or barbed wire fences. But from 2000 to 2010 it suffered an exodus of some 3.4 million New Yorkers — nearly a million more people than in Germany's post-war experience and more than that of any other state.

RayPray writes:

in response to condoseller:

This is great news for Collier County and Marco Island!

As a homeowner 100% focused on the prosperity of the Chamber of Commerce, this article gave me an immediate orgasm!

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