The Space Coast tourism sector has been accelerating, and is expected to continue to remain strong in the foreseeable future.
An analysis from the tourism tracking firm STR Inc. showing the strength of the local tourism industry comes as the Space Coast is in the midst of its spring break period — one of the strongest times of the year for tourism.
“Right now, all our stars are lining up pretty good,” said hotelier Bob Baugher, who owns three hotels with a total of 409 rooms in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.
The strength of the industry is apparent when driving down a State Road A1A congested with visitors to the Space Coast or by checking out the crowds on the local beaches.
Jennifer Foster, STR’s business development executive for destinations, told local tourism officials at a meeting Wednesday of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council that the growth in key measures of tourism within the county are outpacing the state as a whole and most other markets within the state.
Revenue per available room — a widely watched measure of tourism activity that takes into account both the percentage of hotel rooms occupied and the average price per room — is up 10.3 percent in Brevard for the 12-month period ended in February. It is up 14.2 percent for the first two months of 2018.
The growth in that measure in Brevard “has just been roaring since 2014,” Foster said. “It’s been a lovely ride.”
Baugher said the Brevard County tourism industry was late in recovering from the economic recession because of a second major negative factor — the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 that reduced the number of visitors to the area who wanted to see a launch.
But, now, with SpaceX bringing renewed attention to the space program, those tourists are coming back.
Additionally, Baugher said, the expanding Port Canaveral cruise business has given a boost to local tourism businesses, as many cruise passengers stay at local hotels for one or more days, either before or after their cruises.
“The demand has been very strong,” said Baugher, who also is a member of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council. “All my properties were all sold out” this week.
The amount of money collected from Brevard County’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals is up 18 percent for the first four months of the current budget year (October 2017 through January 2018), compared with figures of the previous budget year. If those gains continue through the full budget year, tourist tax revenue will total $16.05 million, up from $13.60 million in the previous budget year.
Forty-seven percent of Brevard County’s Tourist Development Tax revenue is used for promotion and advertising of Space Coast tourism in an effort to attract more tourists.
The rest is used for these purposes:
- 25 percent for beach improvement
- 14 percent for capital facilities
- 5 percent for the Brevard Zoo
- 4 percent for cultural events
- 3 percent for Space Coast Stadium
- 2 percent for visitor information centers
The tourism sector also appears to be optimistic for the future.
Foster said STR is tracking 13 new hotel projects in Brevard County, either under construction or in the planning states, with a total of 1,507 rooms.
That project pipeline includes two hotels of more than 150 rooms apiece being built by Baugher’s company in Cape Canaveral, north of his 284-room Radisson Resort at the Port.
Baugher said he expects one of his new hotels to open by the end of 2019 and the second by mid-2020.
“Obviously, I see growth” and expect it to continue, Baugher said.
According to STR’s database, there currently are 83 hotel properties in Brevard with a total of 9,007 rooms. So the 13 proposed new hotels would increase the current room inventory by 16.7 percent.
STR projects that the average daily rate and revenue per available room figures will continue to increase in Brevard County during 2018, although occupancy rates may tail off a bit, as new hotels open, increasing inventory.
Baugher and Foster, however, said the thing that could hurt the tourism industry is what Foster refers to as a “black-swan event” that can’t be predicted. This could include such things as an economic recession, a major hurricane or a terrorist attack.
Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or firstname.lastname@example.org.