| The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it was another tough month in July for tourism bed tax collections and hotel occupancy rates, but Volusia County hoteliers can take solace in the fact that the declines weren’t as bad as the drops experienced in other Central Florida destinations.
Tourism bed tax collections for the month declined countywide by 20.3%, a downturn that tourism leaders attributed to a lingering reluctance by travelers to commit to summer vacations amid the uncertainties generated by the pandemic.
“We didn’t do anywhere near what we’ve done in many, many past years for July, which is our No. 1 time of the year,” said Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.
“July was, rather than a full tourist vacation month, it was primarily a weekend affair,” Davis said. “That isn’t what we normally expect, but it was better than a lot of other areas.”
In a comparison with other tourism-reliant counties in Central Florida, Volusia’s percentage of bed-tax decline for July was better than the 27.7% year-over-year decline in Brevard County and a whopping 77.2% drop in Orange County.
For July, hotels, vacation rental properties and campgrounds countywide generated $2,199,537 in bed taxes, a decrease from $2,760,166 for the same month a year ago, according to figures compiled by the Volusia County Revenue Division.
In a breakdown of bed tax collections by the county’s three tourism advertising authorities, the Halifax area fell by 23.34% year-over-year to $790,006 for July, compared with $1,030,562 for the same month in 2019. In Southeast Volusia, collections declined by 7.97% to $263,022, compared with $285,802 for the same month a year ago.
In West Volusia, collections were down by 27.15% to $43,012, compared with $59,041 in July 2019.
For the year-to-date, tourism bed tax collections are down 19.6% for the first 10 months of the fiscal year that started on Oct. 1, from $20,711,842 for the same period a year ago to $16,653,166 for the current year, according to the county.
Davis praised the Volusia County Council for keeping beaches open throughout the summer.
“We had a pretty decent July 4th, race or no race,” Davis said, alluding to the absence of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR race moved this year to its new late-August time slot. “This is all just a matter of the times and COVID.”
The county collects a 6% tourism tax on hotels and lodges with half of the revenues going to fund the county-run Ocean Center convention complex in Daytona Beach. The other half goes to the county’s three tourism ad authorities to market their respective areas — the Daytona Beach/Halifax area, Southeast Volusia and West Volusia — as tourist and special event destinations.
‘Not doing as bad’
In the occupancy realm, average hotel occupancy for the month was down by about 29% compared with the same month a year ago, to an overall average of 56%, according to figures from Mid-Florida Marketing & Research.
Revenue per available room, calculated by multiplying a hotel’s average daily rate by its occupancy rate, fell by about 35% to $73.04 compared with $112.35 for the same month last year.
At the same time, Volusia’s countywide average daily hotel room rate for the month declined just 7% to $131.57, compared with $142.14 in July 2019.
In an encouraging sign, a statewide comparison of July numbers shows that Volusia County’s occupancy rate for the month was better than the occupancy rate of 43.3% for the state as a whole, according to STR, a data and analytics specialist that tracks hotel data.
The county’s numbers also were better than the statewide average daily room rate of $118.84, as well as the statewide average revenue per available room of $51.40 for the month, according to STR.
Statewide, occupancy was down year-over-year by 41.7 %, average daily rate by 10.8%, and revenue per-available-room by 48%, STR reported.
Elsewhere in Central Florida, meanwhile, hotel occupancy in Metro Orlando was down by 62% in July to 29.7%, according to statistics provided by Visit Orlando.
“We are not doing as bad as some other destinations, but we’re doing bad,” said Evelyn Fine, president of Mid-Florida Marketing & Research. “Obviously, July has always been a terrific month for us and July 4th is a banner weekend for Daytona Beach, one that we rely on.
“Business is bad because people are not traveling as much as they used to,” Fine said. “We’re at the mercy of whatever the latest news stories are.”
At the same time, Fine found reason for optimism.
“The numbers were not nearly as awful as I had feared they would be,” she said. “People are making last-minute decisions to get out and travel and they’re just happy to get away from home. It’s a reason to feel a little bit more optimistic and that’s where we are right now.”