By John Morton
Fiscal year 2022 (beginning Oct. 1 of 2021) was record breaking as far as tourism in Sarasota County is concerned, with visitors spending more than $1.7 billion here. That is according to Visit Sarasota, which serves at the county’s tourism arm, as its representatives gave the organization’s annual report at the April 11 meeting of the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners.
“Sarasota County was uniquely positioned to take advantage of the post-COVID surge in travel because Florida was reliably open for business and because of the strong marketing efforts we had in place prior to COVID,” Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota, said.
That spending spree tops the number of more than $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2021.
In fact, fiscal year 2022 numbers surpassed 2021 numbers in all major categories.
Economic impact: More than $2.8 billion in 2022 vs. more than $2.2 billion in 2021.
Visitation numbers: 1,499,200 in 2022 vs. 1,365,700 in 2021.
Room nights sold: 3,255,230 in 2022 vs. 2,945,020 in 2021.
Average daily rate: $237.44 in 2022 vs. $194.83 in 2021.
Occupancy: 71% in 2022 vs. 66% in 2021.
The origin of visitors in fiscal year 2022, Visit Sarasota reports, was 91.5% domestic and 8.5% international. Haley said the international market is still slow to return to form but improving, noting that it reconnected with some European tour operators.
What is strong again is the traditional origin market made up of many northern cities, while in fiscal year 2021 most domestic visitors were regional — coming from within Florida or the southeast part of the country.
Among the top origin cities were New York City, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Chicago, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and Boston.
The number of corporate meetings hosted in Sarasota County also improved in fiscal year 2022, especially in the fourth quarter, as 44 of them were booked out of 299 direct invites, Visit Sarasota reports. That resulted in $12 million in economic impact.
Fiscal year 2023, which began Oct. 1 of 2022, looks promising as well. Haley reports that through the end of February there has been a 6.8% increase in visitors and in direct spending a 4.6% increase – a number she said is a bit down because many visitors in October and early October were relief workers here to help with Hurricane Ian cleanup and relief.
“While our rooms were full, they were heading out to help others. They weren’t going to attractions. They weren’t going out to eat,” Haley said.
In this year’s tourism season, she noted, room-rate occupancy went as high as 87% with the average room rate for February reaching a staggering $303.
“I don’t think I can afford to vacation here in high season,” Haley said.
- Tags: Virgina Haley, Visit Sarasota