Rain brings down June occupancy in Newport/ Middletown hotels
THE PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF NEWPORT COUNTY saw attendance in June increase 7.3 percent over June 2012, although visitor growth at the Newport Mansions - The Elms is pictured - was not enough to counteract the effects of a wet June, as occupancy at hotels in Newport and Middletown fell 7.3 percent year over year.
NEWPORT – Rainy weekends made June a difficult month for hotels in Newport and Middletown, with a 7.3 percent decline in occupancy compared with last June, according to figures supplied by Discover Newport.
“The decline was first and foremost disappointing, but not unexpected given it rained almost every weekend in June,” said Evan Smith, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “Zero to 5 percent is more typical. That (7.3 percent) is a little bit above the Richter scale and an indication of how dismal the weather was.”
The average daily rate (or average room charge) fell 2.5 percent and the revenue per available room, or RevPAR, dropped 9.6 percent, Smith said.
Discover Newport, a nonprofit that promotes the city of Newport and the eight surrounding municipalities in Newport & Bristol counties as business and leisure travel destinations, calculates occupancy rates on a monthly basis.
About 200 or more weddings in June helped counter the overall negative numbers, Smith said.
“If it wasn’t for the strength of weddings, that number would have been even higher, because weddings happen rain or shine, and June is an enormous wedding month,” he said.
Also a factor, perhaps 1 percent of the 7.3 decline, can be attributed to the coming impacts associated with cuts in military spending for sequestration, Smith added.
“One of the questions we’re asking ourselves now is what the impact of the sequester (on the U.S. Navy base and surrounding area) will be,” said Smith. “We know it’ll have an impact; we don’t know how much yet. That’s one we’re really going to have to keep an eye on.”
Despite the occupancy rate decline at hotels, admissions for June at the Preservation Society of Newport County properties, which constitute the major portion of Newport attractions, increased 7.3 percent over last year’s “record pace,” Smith said. When members’ admissions are subtracted out, the increase jumps to 11.7 percent, he said.
“The Newport Mansions represent an enormous market share,” said Smith. “They’re the trendsetter. It’s a bellwether of what attractions are doing, and they share their numbers with us.”
Smith attributed that increase to aggressive marketing in all advertising formats, including traditional marketing, social media and the Web.
“In Newport, we do 80 percent of our revenue from May to October, so when we start to talk about how we’re doing, the real numbers that count to us as a seasonal resort are the numbers that start in May,” he said.
With the mansions holding their own, July is actually looking good so far for hotel lodging, Smith said, so he’s cautiously optimistic.
“I’m anxiously excited to see [July figures],” he said. “We’re wondering how much of the lost ground we can gain back. Our hope and expectation, because we have such strong programming for the rest of the summer is, we believe we can not only make up lost ground but finish with a small positive number. I believe we’re going to be OK.
“Now, Mother Nature could make me eat my words, but I don’t believe it can rain all summer.”