Four takeaways on the hotel industry outlook for the Tampa Bay area and beyond

Andre Ferreira, 11, and Luke Ambroise, both of Centereach, New York, play in a pool at the DreamView Resort & Hotel, 691 S Gulfview Blvd, on Clearwater Beach in January 2017. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times (2017)
Andre Ferreira, 11, and Luke Ambroise, both of Centereach, New York, play in a pool at the DreamView Resort & Hotel, 691 S Gulfview Blvd, on Clearwater Beach in January 2017. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2017)
Published July 27 2018

TAMPA — The hospitality industry is on an epic run, and while hoteliers can’t help but wonder how long this unusually long-lasting economic recovery will keep going, the outlook appears bright at least for the next year or two.

Here are a few takeaways from the Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association’s annual forum on industry trends Thursday:

This is about as good as it gets: Nationwide, the supply of rooms has grown about 2 percent, while demand for those rooms has grown 3 percent, nudging up occupancy rates and average daily room rates.

Revenue per available room — a key industry metric — has grown for 100 consecutive months, approaching the previous record of 111 months, which ended with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Locally, the picture is strong: Collections of hotel bed taxes topped $54.7 million in Pinellas last year and $32 million in Hillsborough County.

In the bay area, occupancy is up nearly 2 percent through June on a 12-month moving average, said Jennifer Foster, a business development executive for destinations at the hotel data tracking firm STR, and revenue per available room is up 5.8 percent.

Demand growth has been strongest in Clearwater and the North Tampa area around Busch Gardens.

For 2019, veteran Tampa hotel consultant Lou Plasencia projects occupancy at full-service hotels around the bay area to grow at 1.8 percent compared to this year, average daily room rates to rise 3.2 percent and revenue per available room to go up 5 percent. And he expects revenue per room at upscale hotels to rise in 2020, too, though not as much.

Still, can it last?: In one sense, almost certainly not. Occupancy numbers are expected to dip in September compared to last year because 2017 was marked by a big surge in bookings associated with of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

"Don’t be surprised if you start getting calls from your owners saying, ‘Why are we down year over year?’ " Plasencia told about 100 hoteliers at the forum, held at the Tampa Airport Marriott.

More generally, Plasencia said there’s little on the horizon that gives him much concern.

"That said, we are starting to see people put on their belts or suspenders or parachutes ... getting ready," he said. "How bad is the next downturn going to be? It’s not if, it’s when it happens. It will be very, very mild if things continue to go at the pace we’re going right now."

The things you learn: Finally, apropos of nothing, who knew that Nashville’s top five occupancy rate of 78.4 percent was fueled by Music City’s knack for attracting ... bachelorette parties?

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Contact >Richard Danielson> at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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