First Quarter 2015 Shows Slight Gains in Tourism Economy Over Last Year

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Historic Triangle Sign USE1The numbers are in, and tourism-related businesses in the Historic Triangle are doing slightly better through the first three months of 2015 than they were in the first three months of 2014, thanks to a nearly 2 percent boost in total hotel rooms sold.

Figures provided by the three localities to the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance show that about 4,225 more hotel rooms were sold during that period.

Williamsburg had the largest boost in total hotel rooms sold, climbing by 4,900, or 5.8 percent.

York County sold 3,665 more rooms, good for a 4.2 percent increase. James City County sold 4,340 less rooms during the time period, however that figure does not include some hotels in the county which have not yet reported their room nights, according to Karen Riordan, the Alliance’s president and CEO.

Along with more rooms sold in York County and Williamsburg, the average daily rate grew by several dollars in each locality, for an average of $109.33 per night, a 10.5 percent boost over last year.

“We’re very pleased to see the average daily rate is going up,” Riordan said. “That is a very good health metric for the destination. Essentially that means the inventory is good and the guest is feeling that is a fair value, so there’s more price elasticity and the hotelier can bump up that right a little bit.”

Williamsburg and York County also saw more total sales by restaurants, with 5.9 percent and 2.3 percent boosts, respectively. James City County was down 10.8 percent.

Riordan said the figures largely show a positive trend for the tourism economy in 2015 and she is “cautiously optimistic” the year will continue to show increases in hotel room and restaurant sales.

“Despite some of the weather issues, we did much better this year than last year, and the trend seems to be continuing in April, May and June,” she said. “Right now there does not appear to be any slowdown when we talk to our retailers. They say their shops are full, and when we talk to restaurants they say they’re very happy with business and sales are up at ticketed attractions and at hotels.”

She attributed the positive developments to several factors — gasoline prices are about $1 less per gallon than they were in the first three months of 2014; key feeder markets in the northeast had bad winters, so when the snow thawed, there was a pent-up demand to travel; and the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee has launched new branding and advertisements for the area.

Figures for the second quarter of the year will not be available until later in the summer. It typically takes at least 60 days for the localities to report to the Alliance.

Though the sales figures show growth, the hotel sector does not seem to have returned to its pre-recession sales levels during the first three months of the year. In 2008, for example, a total of 272,946 hotel rooms were sold across the Historic Triangle in the first three months of the year. In 2015, that number was 238,694.

Restaurant sales and sales tax collections have been stronger, with the first three months of 2015 featuring more than $2 million in additional sales over the 2008 figure for a total of $76,714,879 across the Triangle. Sales tax collections across the area reached an 11-year high in the first three months of the year with $3,147,320.27 in total collections.

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