Manor Inn 09.jpg

Pinehurst Resort's newly refurbished Manor Inn remains closed while the area's hospitality industry is regaining a foothold following statewide restrictions as a result of COVID-19.  Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Leisure travel has picked up for area hotels according to a report released Friday by Smith Travel Research. Moore County increased nearly 10 percentage points from April to May, with participating hotels reporting a collective average of 32 percent occupancy in May compared with 22.2 percent for the month of April.

The national average for hotel occupancy as of late May was 32.4 percent. The STR research does not include the short-term rental market.

“While those numbers are in line with the national average, keep in mind that Pinehurst Resort and all of its lodging options were closed for 59 days and reopened on May 22,” said Phil Werz, president and CEO of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB. “With Pinehurst (Resort) back in the mix, we should see a solid boost for June. We are receiving more inquiries about travel, itineraries and things to do in the area more consistently, so we know people are ready to get out and explore, especially by car and within a 3-6 hour radius, and in some cases from even more distant locations like Pittsburgh, Ohio markets and the Northeast.”

Aside from information related to hotel occupancy in Moore County, the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) also monitors a variety of other markets for similar data, and for the month of May, Moore County was competitive, and in some cases, more productive than other select destinations in the Carolinas.

In May, among the competitive set the CVB tracks, Moore County bested Mecklenburg County/Charlotte (29.3 percent) and Guilford County/Greensboro (30.8 percent), while Wake County/Raleigh was slightly higher (33.3 percent). Beach communities in New Hanover County/Wilmington (36 percent) and Horry County/Myrtle Beach area (39.6 percent) were slightly higher as stay-at-home restrictions were loosened in May for both states.

The CVB has conducted in-market research for the month of June and early indications are showing hotel occupancy will continue to see solid increases when Smith Travel Research releases their official June report in mid-July. According to STR, the national hotel occupancy average on June 15th was 41.7 percent. Many Pinehurst area hotels polled by the CVB indicated occupancy levels higher than the national average in mid-June.

As North Carolina emerges from the pandemic, the CVB has access to a multitude of travel data and insights from travel research companies. Among a wealth of information, the CVB sees these key factors based on findings by the research company Destination Analysts:

Americans continue to exhibit greater feelings of safety, including towards travel.

One in five people are already traveling or ready to travel with no hesitations. These Americans have less concerns surrounding the virus and are more likely to prioritize having new experiences in their lives.

Openness to travel inspiration and excitement to take a getaway in the next month increases each week.

The proportion of American travelers who have at least tentative trip plans in 2020 grew to nearly 7-in-10 and Americans’ next air and road trips will be sooner than they reported last week.

Travel is commonly seen as integral to health and wellness.

Road trips, staying at a beach or rural resort, and visiting national and other parks are among the highest rated relaxing travel experiences.

American travelers are also getting more comfortable with tourists in their own communities.

The CVB’s fiscal year ends on June 30, 2020. The organization could witness a small shortfall, or break even for the budget year if occupancy tax collections are good for June. The CVB had projected a $400,000 shortfall in early March when COVID-19 started to impact travel. That shortfall has been mitigated by cutting all paid advertising promoting the destination since March 15th and cutting a large portion of expected expenditures through the end of the fiscal year.

(1) comment

Walter B Bull

Good information- Keep it coming WBBJr

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