Aug. 28--Palm Beach County tourism officials said they expect the county this year to meet or beat its all-time peak of about 6 million visitors reached in 2005, a prediction buoyed by growth in hotel occupancy and upswings in room rates.
"I think we're on track to match or surpass that this year," Jorge Pesquera, President and CEO of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), said Tuesday.
The forecast comes on the heels of a report released this week showing a 12 percent increase in the number of visitors to the area last year. Roughly 5.47 million people visited the destination, exceeding its 2007 pre-recession total of 5.38 million, the TravelsAmerica Visitor Profile Report revealed.
Palm Beach County has seen 42 consecutive months of increasing revenue per available room, Pequera added. RevPar is a key performance metric for hoteliers and a gauge of the industry's health.
This year through July, area hotels were 75.2 percent occupied, compared to 71.3 percent in the same 2012 period, according to data from industry tracker Smith Travel Research. Meanwhile the county's average daily room rate in 2013 was $158.66, up slightly from $153.46 in 2012.
Tourism is one of the county's major industries employing roughly 45,000 residents and generating an annual economic impact of more than $5 billion. It also produces $28 million in bed-tax revenue from the 5 percent tourism tax levied on overnight hotel visitors.
"With nearly 5.5 million visitors contributing more than $5 billion to the local economy in 2012, travel and tourism continue to play a critical role in Palm Beach County's economic development," said Glenn Jergensen, executive director of Tourist Development Council, in a statement.
By contrast Broward County welcomed 12.04 million visitors in 2012 that spent $9.8 billion in the area and Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau officials are predicting that number to hit 13 million in 2013.
While Palm Beach County tourism has been slower to recover from the Great Recession than Broward and Miami-Dade, the area is "catching up," Pesquera said.
He cited the busy cruise ports and airports in Fort Lauderdale and Miami as a "tremendous advantage" to those counties, in helping to boost visitor arrivals.
Tourism spending in Palm Beach County dropped 12 percent between 2008 and 2009, but it recovered fully in 2011, CVB data shows.
Other findings of the Palm Beach County report released Monday revealed more than one million visitors came from New York, the area's top feeder market.
"New York is on a tear. We did a lot of good things up there, and right," said Pesquera referring to the timing of key marketing and advertising campaigns in that region.
Florida also stood out as the top feeder state in 2012, accounting for 38 percent of visitors.
The state continued to hold this position because of its popularity as a summer and fall drive market, Pesquera said.
The report also indicated that the average age (53 years) and average household income ($93,900) of county visitors also rose in 2012. Still the county was attracting more interest from the 18 to 34-year-olds with no children demographic, dubbed the "Young & Free."
"This is very encouraging," said Pesquera. "It's not your grandma's Palm Beach anymore."
The CVB aims to use the findings of the report to help refine its strategies to attract more business and leisure travelers, he noted.
The tourism bureau is slated to reveal a new brand identity soon, which will be featured prominently in its destination marketing efforts.
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