With a federal holiday falling smack dab in the middle of the week, what’s a vacationer to do?
South Florida hoteliers are hoping the answer is: Take the whole week off — or at least make it an extra-long weekend.
There’s a chance some will get their wish. AAA is projecting a nearly 5 percent increase in travel nationwide and in Florida, with 2.1 million people in the state expected to travel 50 or more miles from home during the period between Tuesday and July 8.
Gas prices, which often spike in the summer, have dropped instead — an encouraging sign for tourism officials in popular drive markets such as Broward. The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Miami and Fort Lauderdale Friday was about $3.31 — more than a quarter a gallon cheaper than a month ago.
“This is something that people believe is giving them more incentive to get in the car and travel,” said Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In Miami-Dade, an early survey of hotels shows that occupancy midweek is expected to be higher than last year, when July 4 fell on a Monday, though numbers on the pre-holiday weekend are looking to be lower.
“The fact that it is on a Wednesday, I think it is going to help that midweek hotel performance, which is typically most challenging, especially in the summer,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
At the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach - DoubleTree by Hilton, general manager Marcos Borras said he’s expecting to sell out through Wednesday night. Fort Lauderdale’s public fireworks celebration at Las Olas Boulevard and the ocean is just a couple blocks away from the hotel.
“We’re loving it,” Borras said.
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach scheduled an event with required three-night stays for this weekend to capitalize on the holiday. The two-day iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party, which is part of the hotel’s BleauLive concert series, features Maroon 5, Flo Rida and Gym Class Heroes – and a starting rate of $400 a night. Only hotel guests can attend the event, which started Friday night.
“We will be sold out for this weekend completely,” said hotel spokeswoman Mabel De Beunza. She said many guests were scheduled to checked in Thursday and Friday, with some staying through Wednesday.
“You’re getting a much longer length of stay because the holiday is on a Wednesday,” she said.
Online travel site Priceline.com has seen more trips to far-off places this holiday than usual, indicating that people are taking advantage of extended vacations, said spokesman Brian Ek.
The site’s list of the top 50 destinations for the holiday included Hawaii, Paris and London.
“You certainly don’t go for the weekend to Waikiki,” Ek said. “There were a lot of destinations that two things struck me: One, it was longer and clearly somebody’s splurging because those are not cheap vacations either.”