Tourism in Collier County strengthens in August
Tourism looked sunny in Collier County before Hurricane Irma hit.
In August, visitation rose 7 percent over the same month last year.
The number of room nights booked increased 4.7 percent, and spending grew nearly 10 percent over the year, leading county tourism consultant Walter Klages to describe the numbers once again as impressive.
Klages, president of Tampa-based Research Data Services., presented the rosy report at a Tourist Development Council meeting Monday.
But he couldn't ignore the looming question in the room. How will Irma, which dealt a heavy blow in the county, affect tourism in September — and going forward? He said the impact could be substantial, though occupancy may not have dropped off as much as it could have because many hotels were still filled with evacuees, first responders, utility workers and others helping with recovery efforts.
"The storm itself, of course, has a lifespan, so to speak, beyond it's immediate impact," Klages said.
He noted that some of the emergency workers staying in hotels this month are exempt from paying the 5 percent levy that visitors normally do, which helps fund tourism marketing, maintain beaches and support museums, events and soon an amateur sports complex.
If there's any silver lining it's that the storm came in September, said Jack Wert, the county's tourism director.
"It's the slowest month anyway," he said. "Losses will not be as significant with it happening this month, as it would have in any other. It's still going to be there but not as bad."
As for August, the county saw 107,300 visitors staying in hotels or other vacation rentals, up from 100,300 last year, according to the monthly report.
Last month visitors booked 148,400 room nights and spent more than $90.3 million. Occupancy rose 2.5 percent over the year to 60.7 percent, with the average daily rate growing to $143.60.
Nearly half the visitors in August came from other parts of Florida, the biggest feeder market for Collier County in the summer. More than 27,000 came from Europe — up 9.6 percent from a year ago.
The county saw increased visitation from all of its top markets, except the Southeastern United States, where numbers declined 8.3 percent. Klages described the drop as cyclical.
A separate report by tourism research firm STR showed occupancy in the upscale Naples market rose 19.4 percent in August to 65.1 percent, with the revenue per available room growing nearly 23 percent, numbers that blew away its competitive set in Florida, which includes Miami and the Florida Keys, Klages said.
"This is a success story, no matter which way you turn," he said.
The same STR report also showed group business increased more than 73 percent in August over the year in the Naples area overall.
"That's impressive," Klages said. "I have not seen a number like that in the 12 markets where we are developing this kind of information."
Through August, visitation was up 2.4 percent for the year in the county, approaching 3 million.
Tourism spending has reached more than $1.5 billion, and it's tracking 5 percent higher than last year.
By the Numbers
Here's a look at visitation in August 2017 and how it compared with a year ago in Collier County:
Market Number of Visitors Change
Florida 53,006 +4 percent
Southeast 4,507 -8.3 percent
Northeast 8,369 +11.2 percent
Midwest 7.940 +11.5 percent
Canada 1,073 +33.8 percent
Europe 27,147 +9.6 percent
*West 5,258 +24.8 percent
Total 107,300 +7 percent
*Markets west of the Mississippi
Source: Research Data Services Inc.