TAMPA — Super Bowl 55 weekend brought super-sized crowds to Hillsborough County hotels, Visit Tampa Bay announced Thursday.
Hotel occupancy reached 92.1 percent — 93.8 percent on Saturday, Feb. 6, and 90.4 percent on Super Bowl Sunday — for the weekend of Super Bowl 55, according to industry tracker STR, Inc.
Hotel visitors surrounding the game at Raymond James Stadium outperformed Tampa Bay’s 2009 Super Bowl weekend, which had a 84.7 percent occupancy over the same period.
“I think the numbers are even more impressive than we expected,” said Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.
The occupancy rate is even more telling considering the increased number of available hotel rooms. Hillsborough County has added 4,000 hotel rooms in the past five years and its inventory is now 25,500 rooms.
Hotel revenue for the weekend totaled nearly $14.3 million, an increase of 166 percent over the same dates in February 2020.
“This preliminary data highlights only the impact to the hotel industry and not the whole economic impact, but it does speak to the hard work and resilience of this destination and all of those partners involved,” Corrada said.
Last week, Corrada told the Hillsborough Tourist Development Council that two-thirds of the hotel rooms in the county were filled in the week leading up to Super Bowl 55, For the week of Feb. 1-6, the hotel occupancy rate reached 67.5 percent, according to preliminary data Corrada provided. The hotels were only about 55 percent full for the month of January and less than 48 percent occupied in December.
“It is a testimony to why the (Super Bowl 55) investment was so critical for our hotel partners,” said Bob Morrison, the director of the Hillsborough County Hotel/Motel Association. “To experience a weekend like that was a huge step in the right direction. It sets the tone for 2021.”
Hoteliers are optimistic occupancy rates will continue to get better as more of the country receives the COVID-19 vaccine. But for now, they’ve largely gone back to what they were before the Super Bowl. Leading up to the Super Bowl, the average occupancy rate for the entire Tampa Bay area hovered around 50 percent.
Without a sustained solid occupancy rate, Morrison said hoteliers won’t be able to bring back more of the workers they laid off because of the pandemic.
Neighboring Pasco County also saw a jump in visitors Super Bowl weekend with hotel occupancy reaching 93.6 percent on Saturday and showing a one-third increase in filled rooms on Sunday, compared to a year earlier.
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However, Adam Thomas, director of the county’s tourism agency, Florida’s Sports Coast, said the growth couldn’t be attributed specifically to the football game because the county’s Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus in Wesley Chapel played host to USA Gymnastics Florida championships the same weekend.
The occupancy rate wasn’t quite as high in Pinellas County, which even with Super Bowl traffic still had a lower occupancy rate than it did for the same period last year. That’s because February 2020 broke tourism records. March was slated to do the same until the pandemic began.
Pinellas hotels were around 85 percent full on Saturday, Feb. 6, and 80 percent full Friday, Feb. 5 and on Super Bowl Sunday, according to STR data. The average occupancy for the week at those hotels was about 84 percent -— the highest since the pandemic began.
“We were handed several unique challenges, but our community came together and ultimately proved that even with more hotel inventory, a hometown team and a pandemic, this destination was poised to host one of the most memorable, impactful games at a critical time in our history,” Corrada said. “We couldn’t be prouder of how our community rallied to pull this off.”