Hotels pick up steam, as marketing, demand kick in
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
Rhode Island’s average hotel occupancy rate for May increased 4.7 percent over last May, exceeding the 3.6 percent rate for New England, and tourism experts say new and trusted marketing strategies, and pent-up demand are the reason.
The yearning to bust out of the trappings of a long winter may have been the biggest single factor buoying state numbers culled from the Smith Travel Research report for May, according to Evan Smith, Discover Newport president and CEO.
“[At] weekly staff meetings, everybody talks about feedback from an ad, what’s trending, [but] that was the one that was jumping out week after week: It wasn’t about any specific promotion or any specific thing,” Smith said.
At the Ocean House in Westerly, occupancy increased 12.3 percent to 62.1 percent this past May from 55.3 percent last May, said Daniel A. Hostettler, president and managing director of Ocean House Management LLC. Bookings for corporate groups and last-minute bookings within 30 days of May accounted for the increase, he said – likely spurred by the pent-up demand others are citing.
Mark Brodeur, director of tourism for the R.I. Commerce Corporation, noted that integrated marketing strategies across regions, ad placement in travel magazines and articles in prominent news publications have helped push hotel occupancy increases of 2 percent or more in past years, even during the recession, and seem to be working even better lately.
May’s increase, while below the national average of 4.9 percent, was a healthy kickoff to the tourist season, which stretches through October, Brodeur said.
Between January and May, Rhode Island hosted 28 writers from organizations ranging from the USA Today to Yankee Magazine, with about eight here in May. The tourism division arranges these visits, coordinating with the tourism councils in the state, which cost up to $5,000 in staff time to set up, while meals and rooms are compensated for by the hotels or venues, Brodeur said.
Warwick, home of T.F. Green Airport, saw a 6.9 percent occupancy increase for its 16 hotels, from 69.4 percent in May 2013 to 74.3 percent this past May. A new 15-second television ad that aired in Massachusetts and Connecticut and was cross promoted with a Facebook contest made a noticeable impact, said Karen Jedson, the city’s director of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Development.