2009 Industry Outlook
Travelers Check: Tourism-related industries are getting aggressive in targeting visitors.
D.T. Minich, executive director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Convention & Visitors Bureau, says a marketing effort attracted more than 1 million visitors from the Orlando area last fall. He is shifting the group’s marketing efforts farther north now. [Photo: Mark Wemple]
“I think people are just very skittish and very afraid to make a lot of travel plans and do a lot of travel with the uncertainty of the economy,” says Paul Catoe, president and CEO of Tampa Bay & Co. (formerly the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau).
Florida hotels began to feel the impact of the economic crisis in September, when statewide occupancy rates dropped 10.5% and revenue collected on the average hotel room fell 12.6%, according to Smith Travel Research. The historically slow month for tourism was made worse by a spate of hurricane activity, election year jitters and a reduction in flights to the region by many airlines. Theme park business also slowed in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, when the parent companies of Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens reported dips in attendance and revenue.
Americans may be scaling back on their vacation spending, but they’re not opting out entirely. According to a recent survey by the Orlando-based marketing firm Ypartnership and the Travel Industry Association:
Rich Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, says hoteliers in the Orlando area are predicting a 2% to 4% decline in 2009 occupancy as business and leisure travel weakens.
While overseas visitors have provided some cushion to the softening domestic tourism market, the spread of the financial crisis around the globe and the strengthening of the dollar against the euro and the pound will likely dampen international enthusiasm for travel. The Department of Commerce predicts that international arrivals will decline by 1.6% over the next year, and the Travel Industry Association is predicting a 3% drop in overseas travel to the U.S. this year.