News for the Hospitality Executive
Pensacola, Florida Lodging Revenues Strong Despite Oil Spill
Pensacola, Fla. – Dec. 21, 2010 – Lodging revenues in Escambia County for the year showed a 5 percent decrease when compared to the same time period in 2009, which tourism officials claim a victory considering the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
From Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010, lodging revenues from hotels, condos, campsites and other rental units exceeded $127 million. During the same period last year, overnight visitors to the area generated $133 million in lodging revenue.
“The year was off to a strong start and could have possibly been the best year on record for tourism,” said Ed Schroeder, director of Visit Pensacola. “From October through May, lodging revenues were up almost 5 percent over the previous year. We had every reason to be optimistic. More visitors were stopping by the I-10 Welcome Center and at local attractions. The Grand Marlin restaurant was opening on Pensacola Beach. The Hilton Garden Inn and Margaritaville Beach Hotel were opening, and the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport was wrapping up an $80 million renovation.”
But once word got out to visitors about the late April oil spill, tourism numbers sharply declined. In June, July and August, while there was little impact on area beaches from the oil itself, the perception of oil kept visitors away, resulting in a loss of more than $10 million in lodging revenue.
During the summer, Visit Pensacola worked with the area chambers to implement an aggressive marketing plan.
“Throughout the summer, we remained open and honest about what was happening on our beaches,” Schroeder said. “That included a daily update on our Web site, including daily photos and video from Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. That allowed people to see what our beaches looked like in almost real time and on a daily basis.
“Then we put together a television ad campaign that focused on the area’s attractions away from the beach, things like arts and culture, eco-tourism and history. We tagged that campaign “The Other Side of Pensacola” and broadcast it on national television.
“Thirdly, we developed a very successful American Express voucher program that allowed visitors to obtain very good deals on hotel stays.”
The results paid off. In September, lodging revenues were up 17 percent over the year before. The combination of a strong public relations effort, the ad campaign and competitive rates paired with the voucher program is what the industry believes led to such a strong rebound in lodging revenues.
“An increase of this magnitude is significant any time,” said Harlan Butler, chairman of tourism for the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “But coming in the wake of a summer where our tourism industry faced huge challenges, this increase is truly phenomenal.”
The best year on record for tourism in the Pensacola Bay Area was in 2007-08 when lodging revenue exceeded $138 million.
“We’re very happy the numbers are this strong, and I think they indicate that as we move forward into the 2011 tourism season, we can expect continued strong growth,” said Butler. “Escambia County tourism is a $1.2 billion industry that employs more than 18,000 locals. It’s an essential element of our economy, and one we need to keep strong. I think these numbers indicate we are on the right track.”
For more information about the Pensacola Bay Area or to request a visitor guide, call the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 874-1234 or (850) 434-1234 or go online to www.VisitPensacola.com.