Oil Update: Booking Data Shows Major Declines in Gulf

Travel, tourism and lodging associations in the Gulf Region continue to lobby BP for more marketing dollars to help them combat the lack of demand their region is experiencing due to oily beaches. Meanwhile, more data continues to illustrate the oil spill’s effects.

According to Rubicon, which collects actual future hotel bookings and rates from subscribing hotels, The Florida Panhandle (Pensacola, Destin, Panama Beach and Fort Walton Beach) is experiencing the largest declines in demand.

As of June 27, actual roomnights booked in advance and average daily rate numbers are down considerably for both the month of August, which wraps up the panhandle’s busiest season, and for the remainder of the year.

For the month of August 2010, there are 17,993 rooms on the books for Florida Panhandle hotels. Last year, those same hotels sold 19,858 rooms in advance, showing a decrease of 9.4 percent.

Last year, those Florida hotels booked rooms in advance for an average rate of $147.62; this year the same rooms were only able to garner an average of $141.64, a decrease of 4 percent.

The decreases are even more significant considering this year’s numbers are being compared to last year, which was one of the lodging industry’s worst fundamentally.

“We were just getting back—every hotel person in the area will tell you—up until April everyone was way ahead of last year,” said Bruce McAlphin, owner of the Best Western Ft. Walton Beachfront in Fort Walton. “[The upticks] started last fall and everyone was recovering from hurricanes and the recession. Forecasters at every hotel thought it was going to be a record year this year.”

Actual ADR for advanced bookings for the remainder of the year in this region is down 2 percent year over year (transient ADR is down 4.5 percent). Occupancy for the panhandle is down 11.8 percent compared to the same period last year (transient is down 17 percent).

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor is reporting massive decreases in page views for Gulf Coast destinations, but online traveler interest in Florida’s Atlantic Coast areas remains resilient.

Pensacola saw a 51-percent drop in page views on TripAdvisor for the 20 days leading up to June 18 year over year, while West Palm Beach has seen an 18 percent increase in page views on TripAdvisor for the same period year-over-year.