Palm Beach County tourist season roars past Easter and into April
Easter may be over, but the winter tourists are still here.
The spring holiday has traditionally marked the end of Palm Beach County’s busy travel season, but local hoteliers say their rooms have remained full despite Easter’s early date. At one beachfront resort, roughly 90 percent of the rooms have already been booked for next week.
Even at smaller hotels along Interstate 95, business remains strong.
“Even though Easter fell on the first, there is still demand from the snowbirds,” said Rick Netzel, director of sales and marketing at the Best Western Palm Beach Lakes Inn in West Palm Beach. “We have license plates from all the mid-west and the northeast still here.”
Hotel bookings for May and June are also up, a signal the county’s tourism industry may be headed for another record year, hoteliers said this week.
A record-breaking 7.9 million tourists traveled to Palm Beach County last year, a milestone that shattered 2016’s all-time high and marked the ninth consecutive year of growth for the local tourism industry.
RELATED: Record-breaking 7.9 million tourists visited PBC in 2017
“We have been incredibly encouraged,” said John Tolbert, the President and Managing Director of the Boca Raton Resort & Club and a member of the county’s Tourist Development Council. “When you look at January, February, March, and April, we are seeing strong trends. We are pacing on to be strong through the summer.”
Palm Beach County has seen an influx of tourists in the months since hurricanes tore through the Florida Keys and the Caribbean.
The September storms caused widespread damage in the middle Keys, Puerto Rico and other tropical vacation spots, leaving hoteliers with fewer rooms to rent out. As business owners continue to deal with the damage, some tourists have decided to look for new places to visit during the winter travel season.
Meanwhile, the northeast has been hit by at least four winter storms since early March, and residents in those states continue to look for a warm-weather retreat, tourism leaders say.
“People are dealing with more winter storms, and we had the hurricanes,” said Roger Amidon, the general manager at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa and a member of the county’s Tourist Development Council. “This is going to be a record setting year for the industry.”
Occupancy at Amidon’s all-suite, beachfront resort stands at 87 percent for the month of April —well above above the 79 percent occupancy the hotel saw in April 2017.
May is also shaping up to be a good month for the resort. “We are going to be well into the 70s,” Amidon said of the resort’s occupancy level. In May 2017, occupancy reached 64 percent.
During the busy winter tourist season, Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing group, focuses its efforts on tourists from cities such as Boston, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Those “fly markets” are among the county’s most important tourism generators because of the large number of flights to Palm Beach International Airport.
But as the weather in the summer and early fall, tourism officials shift their focus to tourists who live within driving distance of the county.
Discover officials have worked to boost hotel occupancy levels in the summer by showcasing the area as a vacation getaway in cities like Orlando, Miami and Atlanta.
“We continue to work aggressively to promote this tropical paradise as a year-round destination, so The Palm Beaches are positioned as Florida’s premier tourism destination,” said Jorge Pesquera, Discover’s president and CEO.
Pesquera pointed to the county’s nine-year string of record-breaking tourism growing, saying the surge is “reaffirmation” that the agency’s marketing efforts are working.
“The notion of a ‘high season’ and ‘low season’ should become obsolete,” Pesquera said. “Our mission is to continuously grow the tourism economy, and we’re aiming to create an ‘endless season’ mentality within our team and our industry partners.”