TAMPA — Two-thirds of the hotel rooms in Hillsborough County were filled in the week leading up to Super Bowl 55, Visit Tampa Bay said Thursday.
For the week of Feb. 1-6, the hotel occupancy rate reached 67.5 percent, according to preliminary data shared with the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council.
While certainly down from non-pandemic years, the rate is a significant jump from the near 50 percent occupancy rate at which the county’s hotels had been hovering.
“It wasn’t the economic boom that we expected from a full-throttle Super Bowl, but it put us up on the world stage,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
Numbers for December, the last full month for which data is available, showed the countywide hotel occupancy rate was 47.3 percent, down a third from December 2019 but still better than state and national averages.
Early figures for January show the occupancy rate increasing to 55 percent, the highest level since April 2020, said Santiago Corrada, president/CEO of Visit Tampa, the county’s tourist promotion agency. Normally, however, the occupancy rate for the month of January would reach 75 percent, he said.
In December, Forbes, citing hospitality research firm STR, reported that Tampa and St. Petersburg had the highest average hotel occupancy rate, 51 percent, of any major U.S. travel market in 2020.
“Who’d have thought a year ago that about 50 percent occupancy, in the U.S., got you that number 1 spot,” said Corrada. “We’ve done okay. We’re nowhere near where we want to be.”
The county’s hotels are split into four geographic categories, and first-quarter occupancy rates showed the downtown hotels, which rely heavily on convention business, were the hardest hit from the continuing cornavirus pandemic. Occupancy rates there were 35.8 percent, a nearly 52 percent drop from last year. The other regions, Westshore, east Tampa and North Tampa/Busch, had occupancy rates ranging from 40 to 61 percent for the first three months of 2021.
The county’s tourist tax collections for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 are down 42.5 percent compared to a year earlier, from $12.3 million to just more than $7 million. But, assistant county administrator Ron Barton said the county had budgeted for a 45 percent decline in its revenue from the 6 percent tax on overnight accommodations.
“All in all, we’re steadied out. Certainly it’s a reduced revenue, but it’s a pretty consistent level,” Barton said.