Saturday, July 31, 2004
Surf's up and so's tourism
By VALERIE WHITNEY | News-Journal Business Writer
DAYTONA BEACH — It was Christmas in July for many area hoteliers as tourists flocked to the beaches in Volusia and Flagler counties, filling rooms and leaving thousands of dollars in revenue.
"We're hearing great things," said Lori Campbell Baker, spokeswoman for the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We won't have the actual figures for about 30 days, but it's looking good and we're thrilled," Baker said in a telephone interview this week.
Overall, hotel occupancy in the Halifax area during July 2003 was 75 percent, up from 70 percent for the same period in 2002, according to figures gathered by Mid-Florida Marketing and Research Inc. The agency reports on trends in occupancy and room rates for the convention and visitors bureau.
"It's been a good July, not a record-breaking one but good still," said Scott Edwards, manager of the Daytona Beach Welcome Center in Daytona Beach Shores.
Edwards said gas prices likely played a role in the decision to travel.
"Once prices stabilized, it wasn't a factor anymore," said Edwards, whose company wholesales hotel rooms.
Several hotels contacted reported occupancy rates for July that exceeded 80 percent.
Richard Vyse, general manager of the 102-room Holiday Inn and Suites in New Smyrna Beach, said occupancy there hovered around 94 percent in July, up 1.5 percent from the same period last year.
“New Smyrna Beach is having yet another record-breaking year this July,” Vyse said in a telephone interview Friday.
A lot of his guests come from Orlando and it seems like more are heading his way, Vyse said.
“A lot of our success is that we are not part of Daytona Beach and people tell us they like it,” he said, even though his room rates tend to be higher.
Daytona Beach Shores hotelier Gary Brown said business at his 91-room Sun Viking Lodge was up between 3 percent and 4 percent in July.
“While it’s good, it is not as good as we had anticipated,” Brown said, adding he hoped to see a 10 percent increase for the month.
August bookings typically take a beating because families with children have to get ready to head back to school. Each year, the opening day gets earlier and earlier.
“August doesn’t look too exciting but it’s okay. If we’re lucky, we may be a percentage point ahead of last year,” Brown said.
Overall, he said, the year has been pretty positive. “We got a little better rate but occupancy didn’t come up as much,” he said.
Frank Molnar, owner of the 30-unit Shoreline All Suites Inn in Daytona Beach Shores, said July and March are two of his strongest months during the year and this July was no exception.
Occupancy was around 95 percent for the month, Molnar said in a telephone interview Friday. “The demand has definitely been there.”
One thing that has changed is the amount of walk-in business, he said. “It is not what it used to be,” he said, adding that more people are making reservations ahead of time, many through the Internet.
A report from the Travel Industry Association of America backs up Molnar. In 2003, more than 42 million people booked travel using the Internet, up 8 percent from 2002.
However they booked the rooms, the July visitor surge also came ashore in Flagler Beach.
At the Topaz Motel business has been booming, said Kip Durocher, front-desk manager of the 58-room property. “We’ve been sold out every weekend and busy in the week.”
“We get a lot of folks from Florida,” Durocher said in a telephone interview. Many return each year and stay in the same rooms, he said.
Durocher estimated the Topaz’s July occupancy at between 80 percent and 90 percent.
On the net:
Volusia, county of
Flagler, county of
Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau
Daytona Beach Shores
Travel Industry Association of America
Flagler Beach, city of