Collier County tourism numbers are returning to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
Joseph St. Germain, president of Downs & St. Germain Research, this week presented June visitor metrics to the county’s Tourist Development Council, showing a slower month for tourism than anticipated. Although the numbers show visitors stayed one night longer on average compared to June 2022, total visitor days and direct spending were down 16%.
The Ritz Carlton, Naples remained closed for renovation in June, however its reopening in early July is anticipated to alleviate the decreased spending and visitation. St. Germain said the decrease in visitation also is largely due to a smaller number of day-trippers from neighboring areas.
Total economic impact was down 22% from $332 million in June 2022 to $260 million in June 2023. At the halfway point of the year, tourism has brought $2.2 billion in economic impact to the county, a 20% decrease compared to last year.
Almost half of the visitors in June considered other places before selecting Collier County for travel. St. Germain pointed to competition from cruises lines, as the industry recently returned to pre-pandemic numbers.
“[Tourists] are still coming, but they are looking at a lot of other places,” St. Germain said. “Competition is a little more fierce than it’s been the last couple of months.”
He anticipates the county’s peak tourist season will have a slow start in October, as a lot of financial relief programs from the pandemic will be ending, including the pause on student loan payments.
“There are just some things that weren’t bills for a while that are going to become bills again, which we’ve seen and heard are going to be a little bit of a soft landing,” St. Germain said.
As tourism numbers return to pre-pandemic numbers, almost $14 million in tourism tax grants will be awarded to the city of Naples, Marco Island and Collier County in the upcoming fiscal year, beginning in November.
Items that will benefit from these grants include beach renourishment, which will use more than $10 million, inlet projects, such as Wiggins and Doctor’s Pass dredging, and maintenance of the Naples Pier, a $200,000 grant, which has been reoccurring for several years.