The nation’s COVID-battered hotel industry is on the rebound, with leisure travel revenue in the top 50 U.S. markets expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels of 2019, a national industry trade group declared Monday.
But that translates into consumers paying more. All year, industry officials have noted that improving hotel revenues have meant higher prices for consumers as the industry struggled to snap back from a devastating travel slowdown that started in early 2020 and started to rebound last year.
“The hotel industry continues its march toward recovery, but we still have a way to go before we fully get there,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the Washington, DC.-based American Hotel and Lodging Association, in a statement.
Peter Ricci, director of the hospitality and tourism management program at Florida Atlantic University, predicted in an interview Monday that 2023 will be another year of lofty prices for hotel guests as managements wrestle with high labor and energy costs, shifting travel patterns and recession fears.
“The opportunity to reduce rates is restricted beyond anybody’s control because they have to pay the bills,” he said.
Among the top 50 U.S. markets, 80% are projected to see leisure travel revenue exceed 2019, while only 40% are expected to reach that milestone for business travel revenue, the hotel association said in the statement.
Rebound in South Florida
In Florida, Fort Lauderdale ranked No. 24 on the list, with projected leisure travel revenues projected to rise 35% to $1.146 billion with business travel revenues rising by 8.9% to more than $721 million, according to the survey.
Elsewhere, Miami ranks No. 14 with leisure travel revenues expected to hit $2.455 billion for an increase of 33% and business side revenues rising 23.1% to 1.464 billion.
Orlando, with its popular Walt Disney World Resort and other theme park destinations, was at No. 5 with a projection of slightly above $4 billion in leisure revenues, up 24.6% from 2019. Business travel revenues were expected to rise 23.1% to $2.329 billion.
Tampa and Jacksonville were ranked No. 35 and 45 respectively in the survey.
Nationally, leisure travel revenues among the top 50 destinations are expected to come in slightly short of $100 billion at $97.8 billion for an increase of 14% over 2019, the association said. The business side will be off by 1%.
New York, with its $5.4 billion leisure market and $3 billion in business travel revenues, leads the top 50 list despite an expectation that it will lose ground to pre-pandemic levels in both categories.
Florida resumes campaign
Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency, resumed advertising for visitors late last week after a 10-day hiatus triggered by Hurricane Ian, which severely damaged or destroyed a wide array of tourist hotels and attractions in southwest Florida.
The campaign, which is scheduled to run through the end of October, is called “Sun’s Shining in Florida,” and is designed to focus on areas of the state not damaged by Hurricane Ian.
Last week, Ricci moderated an industry panel of South Florida hotel managers to gauge the region’s “state of the union” for the hotel business.
“Everybody said it’s really been one of the hardest years they’ve had to predict,” Ricci said. “There was not one of them confident about going into the budgeting season because of myriad variables.”
But there are bright lights on the horizon.
Uncertainties aside, Fort Lauderdale appears to be a favored destination among Thanksgiving travelers this year, according to a survey also released Monday by Allianz Partners USA, which sells travel protection insurance.
The city ranked 10th among major U.S. cities that are projected to see the highest number of American travelers for the late November holiday.
“Fort Lauderdale has always been popular among our customers as it offers sun and fun at a family-friendly destination that is a relatively short plane ride away for many Americans,” Daniel Durazo, external communications director, said via an email.
“While many of our customers do opt for Caribbean beach vacations, there is always a significant segment that prefers to stay within the U.S.,” Durazo said.
Allianz said it reviewed more than 2 million travel itineraries around the holiday to learn the most popular domestic and international destinations for this year.
Round-trip flights departing from U.S. airports from Saturday, Nov. 19 to Thursday, Nov. 24, and returning Friday, Nov. 25 to Tuesday, Nov. 29, were considered.
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