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Collier tourism shows ‘unbelievable’ growth, researcher says

By LAURA LAYDEN | Monday, October 28, 2013 |NAPLES

family posing for photo by a fountainCollier County’s tourism industry continues to shine.

The county has seen more than 1.25 million visitors this year, who have pumped more than $1.2 billion into the local economy.

From January to September, visitation grew 4.6 percent over the year, with spending up 10.9 percent, in part due to a jump in European tourists, according to a report by Tampa-based Research Data Services Inc., a county consultant.

Visitation from Europe is up 4.4 percent over last year. That kind of growth, Walter Klages, president of Research Data Services, said is “truly unbelievable.”

He told the county’s Tourist Development Council on Monday that he looked at 11 competing destinations and none showed such speedy growth from that market.

Year-to-date, more than 173,000 Europeans have visited the county.

Major improvements planned for the Port of Tampa will attract more cruise ships, and with that more Europeans, Klages said. AIDA Cruises, catering to a younger German crowd, recently announced it will arrive at the port next year, offering trips to the Western Caribbean.

Germans, in particular, like to “migrate” when they’re vacationing, rather than staying in one place, Klages said.

“They are what I call gypsies,” he said. “They will travel.”

The county’s visitation from Central Europe grew more than 237 percent from 2003 to 2013, and rose 67 percent from the United Kingdom in those same years.

Tourism growth isn’t just coming from Europe.

Collier County has seen visitation from all of its major feeder markets rise this year, except in the Southeast, where it’s fallen 0.4 percent.

Visitors from other parts of Florida continue to top the list, with more than 454,508 making their way to the county this year, through September, up 4.5 percent from last year.

Year-to-date, visitation is up 6.2 percent from the Northeast, 4 percent from the Midwest, 8.9 percent from Canada and 6.1 percent from what’s described as opportunity markets, or markets where the county doesn’t advertise.

The Klages report, done monthly, only counts “heads in beds,” or visitors staying overnight in hotels and other vacation rentals.

If out-of-towners staying with friends or family and day trippers were counted, the number of visitors to the county would be much higher, increasing the total anywhere from 25 to 50 percent monthly.

“They do have a tax impact,” Klages said. “They do.”

Through September, visitors had booked nearly 1.8 million room nights this year, up 3.4 percent over the last year.

In September alone, visitation rose 3.8 percent to 76,300, while their spending increased nearly 9 percent to more than $56 million over the year. Meanwhile, room nights booked for the month grew 3.7 percent.

Murray Hendel, chairman of the Tourist Development Council, questioned whether all the turmoil in Washington, D.C., might hurt visitation in the final months of the year. While the rest of the world might be shaking its head about what’s going on in the U.S., with the recent government shutdown and mess over Obamacare, Klages said he expects no impact on tourism locally.

“Our travelers are well-heeled people, well-informed people,” he said.

  © 2013 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

Published inLocal Interest
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