South Florida tourism insiders are expecting the industry to see more growth in 2014 encouraged by its strong performance this past year, barring no major socio-economic calamities.
As of October, Broward County had 47 consecutive months of growth in hotel occupancy. Palm Beach County also recorded ongoing increases in occupancy this year, and as of August, 42 consecutive months of increasing revenue per available room.
Revenue per available room is a key performance metric for hoteliers and a gauge of the industry's health.
"As we start focusing on next year, the sense of optimism … does appear to be more justified this year with occupancy, [average daily rate] and [room revenue] continuing to increase in most markets … and the pundits seem to be in agreement that 2014 increases will be slightly larger than 2013," Miami-based lodging consultant Scott Brush said of the national industry outlook in the December issue of his Lodging Notes newsletter.
In Broward, a record 13.1 million travelers visited in 2013, spending $10 billion in area hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail stores, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. That compares with 12.04 million visitors spending $9.8 billion in 2012.
The bureau will launch key winter promotions in New York starting Jan. 6, when residents will be able to warm themselves in a custom-designed, heated bus shelter near Grand Central Terminal.
For its "The Beach Looks Good on You" Jan. 28 event, the Broward tourism agency will transform Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall into a tropical oasis with live music, palm trees, beach cabanas, a Hobie Cat and huge beachcam screen streaming live images of Fort Lauderdale's beaches.
"Greater Fort Lauderdale brings the warmth and sunshine to the Big Apple to remind our No. 1 visitor market that an escape from the cold and snow is just a short flight away," said Nicki E. Grossman, Convention & Visitors Bureau president.
The event will showcase other beach-themed amenities and giveaways, including a JetBlue Airways Fort Lauderdale-area trip giveaway every hour during the one-day event that's expected to expose South Florida to more than 500,000 Grand Central visitors, the tourism bureau said.
The bureau's "Hello Sunny" beach scene will move to JetBlue's JFK Terminal 5 Jan. 29 for one week trough Super Bowl Monday. Next up, the "Beach Looks Good on You" promotion heads to Chicago, Feb. 19; Washington D.C., March 18; and São Paulo, Brazil, April 29.
Similarly in Palm Beach County, tourism officials say the industry's upward room rate and occupancy trend should continue in 2014.
"Palm Beach County hit a record number of visitors in 2013, and based on industry forecasts such as that of Smith Travel Research, we expect the number of travelers to increase further in 2014," said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover Palm Beach County. "The Palm Beaches are expected to close out 2013 with hotel occupancy around 71 percent."
For 2013, visitor arrivals in Palm Beach County were expected to reach or exceed the 6 million mark, a peak achieved in 2005, but final numbers are still pending. That follows 5.47 million visitors in 2012.
County hotels are expected to see strong demand and continued growth in occupancy in 2014, with about 600 new hotel rooms scheduled to open, Pesquera added. And several "game-changing" projects are on tap, including the opening of the Palm Beach Outlets, the construction of a train station for All Aboard Florida and the reopening of the Waterstone Resort & Marina, formerly the Boca Raton Bridge Hotel.
These projects "will allow us to attract a growing number of travelers to our unique and beautiful destination," Pesquera noted.
Discover Palm Beach County, the county's official tourism marketing agency, has refined its sales and marketing strategy to better capitalize on market opportunities, including targeting top national visitor feeder cities and select international markets, he added.
Among the new hotels slated to open in Palm Beach County in 2014 are the 179-room Wyndham Grand Jupiter Beach in the Harbourside Place complex, the 128-room Courtyard by Marriott in Jupiter near Roger Dean Stadium, and the 102-room Holiday Inn Boynton Beach.
In Broward, the 105-room Hampton Inn & Suites should open doors in April on the northeast corner of State Road 7 and the Sawgrass Expressway.
"This is going to be the first hotel in Coconut Creek," said Seth Fellman, president of Miami-based Morlin Hospitality Group, the developer of the $14 million project.
The hotel, which will cater to area businesses, residents and visitors to the nearby Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, will feature "additional wow-factors" such as oversized suites, Jacuzzi suites, a resort-style pool and full-service fitness center, Fellman said.
The new Hampton Inn & Suites will employ about 30 people, he noted.
As for new attractions, the only museum dedicated to the HIV/AIDS epidemic— the World Aids Museum and Education Center — is expected to open in early 2014 in Wilton Manors at 1201 NE 26th St., Suite 111.
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