Fall hotel occupancy rates in the Historic Triangle were consistently up over last year, but still significantly lower than nearby locales. Top-tier hotels grabbed the biggest share of visitors each of the three months.
According to Smith Travel Research hotel occupancy numbers (which do not include Colonial Williamsburg properties), occupancy in the Triangle in September was 39.9 percent, or 4.2 percent higher than September last year. October occupancy was 45.4 percent, up 7.7 percent, and November was at 32.7 percent, up 11.8 percent over last year.
“This increase is a glimmer of good news for the hotel industry,” said Williamsburg Hotel Motel Association President Billy Scruggs. Though this is good news for hoteliers, “we need to get up 10 percent in demand, and that would help bring us back to a healthy market,” he said.
According to STR, Virginia Beach, the Norfolk and Portsmouth area, and the Newport News and Hampton area each were roughly 10 percentage points higher in occupancy or more across all three fall months.
In September, these areas were at 67.1 percent, 58.4 percent and 57.2 percent, respectively. In October, they were at 54.9, 55.3 and 55.7 percent, and in November they reached 43.4, 48.8 and 52.8.
Scruggs said the reason that Virginia Beach is doing so much better is because “Virginia Beach reinvented itself just over 10 years ago when they were on an unsustainable path. They’ve been successful in turning themselves around.”
To get numbers higher in the greater Williamsburg area, “it takes more marketing dollars,” Scruggs said.
Though the Triangle saw increases in each month, upper-tier hotels gobbled up a big share of the pie. Each of the three months, the most expensive hotels had higher occupancy than mid-tier and lower-tier hotels.
“What you see is a great disparity between the tiers,” said Scruggs. “In our market, I think we have lost the lower-tier attraction. Here, it is a different socio-economic model now.” Anecdotally, he has heard that much of this lost traffic is going to Virginia Beach.
He said he expects the numbers will be better than last year for the winter season, too. “With December’s mild temperatures, more holiday programming than ever, and consumer confidence rising, there are indications that continued increases could be in store.”