Collier County’s November 2023 tourism numbers presented Jan. 16 to the Tourism Development Council showed a year-over-year increase in visitation and direct spending. The numbers demonstrate a significant bounce back more than a year after Hurricane Ian.
Joseph St. Germain, president of Tallahassee-based Downs & St. Germain market research firm, presented the November statistics, which showed more than 207,000 visitors made their way to Collier County, a 15% increase compared to November 2022, which was in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
“Not a lot of people were visiting their second homes or visiting friends and family post-hurricane, so that’s why you see more visitors and more visitor days,” St. Germain said.
With the visitation increase came an uptick in direct spending, mostly driven by restaurants and shopping. Tourism brought in more than $226 million in direct spending, a 15% increase compared to $196 million in November 2022.
“You had a lot of recovery workers still in the market in November  and they just have different spending patterns than your typical leisure visitor,” St. Germain said.
November 2022 had significantly less hotel occupancy available, as many properties suffered damage and were closed for extended periods. With more hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton, Naples and Beach & Golf Resort, open throughout 2023, occupancy numbers dropped in November. Hotels saw an average of 60% of rooms filled compared to November 2022 when 68% of available rooms were filled. Although 2022 was an outlier year, November 2023 occupancy was stable compared to pre-pandemic 2019, showing a decrease of 1%.
International visitation saw a spike in November 2023 with 33,000 tourists visiting, compared to November 2022 which saw 20,000. This statistic has seen a steady climb since 2021, but has yet to reach 2019 levels.
Sandra Rios, communications manager for the county’s tourism bureau, is acting as interim tourism director during the search for previous director Paul Beirnes’ replacement. She said that the numbers should officially rebound in 2025.
Rios also said to expect a major update regarding the hiring of a new tourism director within the next month. Beirnes resigned in November to become vice president of the Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau. Out of the 91 people who have applied to replace Beirnes, eight candidates have been selected for the interview process which begins Jan. 18.