Collier County experienced a 25% year-over-year decrease in visitation in August when compared to August 2022, according to data presented at an Oct. 16 county Tourism Development Council meeting.
Joseph St. Germain, president of Tallahassee-based market research firm Downs & St. Germain Research, presented the August visitor metrics, generally one of the region’s slower visitation months.
Despite the dip in visitation, Germain reported August tourism created $138 million in direct spending, just a 5% decrease from August 2022.
“Given everything that we’re doing for destination management, if we can increase the economic impact and direct spending without having as many visitors, we never necessarily considered that a negative,” St. Germain said.
Hotel occupancy in August was the lowest it’s been in five years at 45%. However, the average daily hotel rate stayed consistent with 2021 figures, sitting at $231 dollars per night. The daily hotel rate in the county has increased more than 30% since 2018.
International travelers made up 16% of county visitors in August, up 8% from last year. In August 2019, almost 30% of county visitors were from outside the U.S.
“A lot of the international [travelers] has really been the return of the Canadian visitor, which we’ve seen not only in [Collier County], but across the state,” St. Germain said.
So far in 2023, Collier County has welcomed more than 1.9 million visitors, a 13% decrease compared to this time last year. Economic impact has accumulated to $2.65 billion, an 18% decrease from the $3.25 billion the county received by August 2022.
“It’s more of this normalization that we’ve seen throughout the year,” St. Germain said. “At the same time, these are still coming off of dramatically high, successful years. It’s still success, just not as high as last year.”
Although August was slower than expected, Collier County Tourism Director Paul Beirnes provided a look at September data, stating visitor numbers were up almost 10% compared to September 2022. Restaurant spending in September was increased 32% from last year, which can be attributed to the success of the Sizzle Dining Event. The annual event generated almost 49,000 meals at 95 participating restaurants in Collier and Lee counties, as $1 per meal was donated to Blessings in a Backpack, which helps support local students experiencing food insecurity.
For the next few months, tourism staff plans to compare this year’s numbers with 2021 as opposed to 2022 when Hurricane Ian all but halted tourism in the county. “By the time we got to about the holiday season [in 2022], things started normalizing, season was back in, so we’ll discuss it as we proceed,” Beirnes said.