Despite the fact that the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore has been bundled up from head to toe most of the winter, the winter of 2012-2013 isn’t much different than previous winter seasons. Sure, Superstorm Sandy that struck the Northeast U.S. this past October and Winter Storm Nemo that buried much of the same region with as much as two feet of snow this past February weren’t pretty, but overall, this winter season, by all accounts, isn’t too much out of the ordinary.
A good barometer (pardon the pun) for what’s “ordinary” and what’s next in regards to winter weather, particularly in the Northeast, are hotel and resort occupancies in the Southeast U.S. Going into the Spring Break, Passover and Easter seasons, nothing seems to be out of the ordinary.
“We’ve seen or normal demand,” for guestrooms, said Jim Mauer, general manger of the Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Weston, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale. “In some years when we see a heavy storm or storms we get the impact at the end of March. People really don’t flock down here right away, but when the bad weather goes on longer, that’s when we see people say, ‘I’ve had enough’ and want to get out at any cost.”
“So right now the demand we have is been on pace to what we expected. We haven’t seen a decrease, but we haven’t seen a spike. It’s kind of stable right now. We normally see that at the end of March through April when we see a bad winter”
Mauer said he looks at the winter weather patterns versus occupancy rates in the short term and the long term – the short term being the immediate impact of a major storm such as Sandy and the long term being how the winter progresses and the long-term forecast for the Spring holidays.
“Easter (March 31) and Passover (March 25-April 2) will be tremendous pushes as opposed to Spring Break,” Mauer said.
Kevin Rosa, director of sales and marketing at Turnberry Isle, Miami, knows about something about severe winter weather. Rosa was director of sales and marketing at The Sagamore Resort on Lake George in Bolton Landing, N.Y., before recently coming to Turnberry Isle this past February. Rosa also has held sales positions at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., as well as The Lodge at Sea Island, Ga., so he knows the Ying and Yang of winter weather.
Rosa also knows how to keep it all in perspective.
“With all due respect to those people affected, Super Storm Sandy actually hit a small area in the Northeast,” Rosa said. “It hit along the Jersey coast and Long Island and then moved farther into New Jersey The Northeast is a much larger swath of land that just those areas, so people in the Northeast still travel.
“I do believe there was a small part of the market that relies on travel agents and travel houses to make their reservations affected. The key selling time for them was that October- November time period. When the storm hit, those agencies were affected for a few weeks before they were up on line again.”
The bottom line, Rosa said, is that Northeast residents will not stop their winter travels.
“There is always Winter Break,” Rosa said. “It’s like clockwork. When Winter Break comes along, people head to Florida and the Carolinas. That’s just what happens.”
Rosa said Turnberry Isle, Miami occupancy since Jan. 1 has been up 1,000 rooms in transient room nights compared to the same period a year ago.
“But I think some of that is from a new channel we have with the Autograph Collection,” Rosa said. “That’s a big part of why we’re trending up this year.”
Farther north in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a popular winter/spring getaway for residents of the Northeast, the early trend isn’t quite as good.
“We’re still pacing behind a bit. We’re not seeing that many plates from that area of the country - and rightfully so,” said Jim Eggen, general manager of Myrtle Beach Seaside Resorts, a collection six condo-hotels in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, S.C. “But it’s hard to know what is impacting guests the most. Is it politics, the economy, the price of gas? We can’t put our finger on it – whether someone’s house was destroyed in Sandy or their job has been impacted or they’re afraid of what the government is going to do.
“There is definitely a trend that shows people are waiting longer and longer to book because the future isn’t as stable as it used to be. It used to be people would be book in January for the summer, now they wait until May or even June.”