TAMPA — The Hillsborough County lodging industry appears to be headed for a record year in 2014.
That was the word from analysts at the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association's 15th annual trends and forecasting forum Thursday, when local hospitality executives got a look at the latest data for the Tampa-Hillsborough market.
The entire Tampa Bay region is doing well, said Vail Brown, vice president of global business development and marketing at hotel research firm STR. But she said the Tampa-Hillsborough market is doing even better.
"Occupancy is back and it's back strong," she said.
Tampa-Hillsborough lodging showed big increases in the industry's three most important metrics in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013. Those key measurements: hotel average occupancy, revenue per daily room available and average daily rate.
According to STR, the Tampa-Hillsborough market had a 5.9 percent increase in hotel occupancy, a 14.7 percent jump in revenue per daily room, and an 8.4 percent rise in average daily rate.
Santiago Corrada, CEO of Hillsborough's tourism agency, Visit Tampa Bay, said the county hotel industry is on track to enjoy its best year since the pre-recession highs of 2007.
"The question I would pose is: Everyone is bouncing back, but why is Tampa bouncing back so big?" he said.
Corrada credited his agency and its partners in tourism and economic development around the bay area for working more closely together in recent years. They've gotten better at using strategy and metrics, and teaming up to market both sides of the bay.
"I think you're seeing a lot of collaboration," he said. "I think you're seeing people working smarter as well as harder — and we have not always worked as smart as we possibly could."
The hotel metrics for Tampa-Hillsborough were also impressive both statewide and nationally. The local increases in hotel occupancy and revenue in the first half of 2014 were bigger than the increases seen by two Florida competitors: Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
The biggest rise in revenue per room in the country was in Nashville, which had a 19.5 percent jump. But the Tampa-Hillsborough market was No. 2 in the nation, followed by Charlotte, N.C., Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
The trend should continue in 2015, Brown said, with revenue per room projected to grow by about 5 percent compared to this year's number.
"I guess for an overall forecast, we would say rosy," she said. "You have a lot to enjoy."
But Brown also warned the audience that, after the pain of the last downturn, the industry can take nothing for granted.
"Enjoy it while you can," she said. "Because there will be a downturn. What that will look like, we have no idea."
Contact Jamal Thalji at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.