First Quarter Results Presented at Industry Briefing Event Prior to Southwest Florida Travel Rally Celebrating National Travel & Tourism Week
Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades – saw big increases in tourism visitation and spending during first quarter 2015.These numbers continue the trend of strong growth in visitation, economic impact to Collier County and tourism-related employment seen in 2014.
Total economic impact from visitors in first quarter 2015 (January through March) was $730,429,100, an 11.7% increase over first quarter 2014. Total visitation was 621,000, a 4.8% jump. Occupancy hit 89.7%, a 1.5% rise over 2014’s peak season and total room nights came in at 807,000, a 3.5% increase. Based on the increased demand, average daily rate for hotel rooms rose 11.7% to $299.10 during the period.
Jack Wert, executive director Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) says these numbers are a reflection of Collier County being a highly sought-after destination for both Americans and international travelers. Wert made the announcement at a press briefing at North Collier Regional Park in north Naples in advance of a large contingent of Collier tourism employees boarding busses for Southwest Florida’s first regional tourism rally event celebrating National Travel & Tourism Week. The afternoon rally event at Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers brings together tourism teams from Collier, Lee and Charlotte Counties to celebrate the benefits of tourism to the regional community and economy with a public festival-like celebration.
“The first quarter 2015 continues the trend of a stellar 2014,” Wert said. “Last year visitors to Collier County provided a $1.8 billion dollar impact to the community, which extends to lower taxes for households as well as job growth for residents. I’m optimistic that with our strong first quarter start we will top those numbers in 2015.”
In 2014, 1.7 million visitors stayed in Collier County with $1.2 billion in direct visitor expenditures, up more than 12% over 2013. Total economic impact topped $1.8 billion for the year. Collier households saw an $863 tax savings reflecting a 14% change over 2013. In addition, tourism industry supported jobs grew by more than 4% to 35,300.
Wert cites destination attributes and tourism partners, weather conditions as well as CVB strategic marketing efforts all contributing to the positive outcome of 2014 and beyond.
“Collier County is Florida’s Paradise Coast,” Wert said. “Visitors come here to explore our natural resources, enjoy the many attractions, indulge in the exceptional restaurants and accommodations and escape the daily grind and cold weather by choosing to spend their time and dollars in our community. The CVB supports that with strategic marketing and public relations, group meeting and leisure travel sales missions, and sports marketing efforts.”
Since the inception of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB in 2002, the bureau has worked to increase both group and leisure travel to the area by community engagement, national and international outreach and issue advocacy. Over the years, the bureau faced challenges such as the negative impact of the recession, as well as success stories, such as the growth in awareness nationally and internationally of Florida’s Paradise Coast as a renowned, refined and redefined destination.
So far in 2015, industry highlights include the Paradise Coast food scene being featured on Cooking Channel’s Emeril’s Florida show, and acknowledged for the second consecutive year in Conde Nast Traveler’s annual reader poll as one of America’s Best Food Cities. 2015 also saw the securing of both the Pro Watercross Tour and the U.S. Open Pickelball Championships slated for April 2016, to name a few. The first recorded TrophyCatch Florida largemouth bass was caught in February 2015, a sign that the recent environmental restoration efforts are succeeding.
Besides these accolades and accomplishments, the bureau is always on the lookout for ways to gain tourism industry market share. Work began in 2014 to lure more Brazilian travelers through an alliance with Sao Paulo-based travel marketing and public relations firm AviaReps. The bureau has also worked in strategic partnership with Southwest Florida International Airport to promote the first direct air service between the airport and San Juan, Puerto Rico, which could bring increases in Caribbean, Latin American and South American travelers directly to Southwest Florida. Those efforts complement the bureau’s long-established marketing efforts with the U.K. and German markets. There are also projects in place to increase visitation through sports travel and medical tourism.
“Besides great news coverage locally and nationally, and growth of industry segments like sports events to the region, we look forward to growth in the medical meetings market,” Wert said. “In an effort to support this industry segment, we recently launched an informational web page encouraging medical tourism in Collier County.”
The page located at ParadiseCoast.com provides more information about venues, dining, activities and meeting space availability to prospective meeting planners.
“With such a strong ’14 and start to ’15, we are looking at ways to continue to highlight Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, as the world-class destination for recreation, sports, leisure travelers and meeting groups as well as medical tourism,” Wert said.