While recession-era fire sales are no longer the norm, travelers such as Perez-Gurri and her friends are still conditioned to seek bargains.
“Consumers are still looking for deals — and they’re definitely out there,” said Jessica Brady, spokeswoman for AAA Travel, The Auto Club Group.
That’s where South Florida comes in. Local tourism offices promote the region’s value during the summer months, when hotels lower prices and offer incentives.
Broward tourism chief Nicki Grossman said the deals are perfect for travelers who are still frugal, but eager for an overdue getaway.
“They’re tired of holding back and this gives them an opportunity to have a vacation, to enjoy themselves at a lower rate at the beach here than if they were doing it at the wintertime,” she said.
Many lodgings offer special rates just for Florida residents, including the Marriott Hollywood Beach, Delano South Beach and Casa Moderna in downtown Miami.
“Some of our largest hotels put their best value forward, especially to locals,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “That speaks to the importance of the local market providing a nice base of business during the summer, which keeps the hotel busy, keeps the occupancy up and keeps employment stable.”
In-state travel is also important to South Florida — and destination promoters are making the effort to lure people within driving distance.
Just last week, a team from Miami-Dade’s tourism bureau took a bus bearing images of the destination to cities including Naples, Tampa and Orlando to promote Miami as a summer option for Floridians. In June, the office will start a campaign encouraging visitors to “live like a local,” using local bloggers and highlighting the broader community, including Little Havana and the Design District. That will tie in to promotions the bureau organizes during the summer featuring restaurant and spa deals.
The Florida Keys is running several in-state marketing efforts. A radio campaign will target potential visitors from Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers; TV ads will run throughout the state. And Broward’s tourism office is promoting packages that have proven successful in recent years, including a staycation offer called “Pack Your Bags, We’re Staying Home” and two-for-one deals for attractions and activities.
So far, the local outlook is good. Aedo said 82 percent of hotels surveyed in Miami-Dade have said they expect overall business for the third quarter to be good or excellent. While occupancy is expected to be fairly stable compared to last year, hotels expect to command higher prices.
“The universal response that I’ve heard from my hotel community is that pricing power has returned,” Aedo said. “It was lost during the recession.”
Grossman said about 40 Broward hotels, mostly on the beach, have reported that they’re sold out for Memorial Day weekend.
In the Florida Keys, hoteliers anticipate that the solid business they’ve been seeing for the last couple of years will continue, said Andy Newman, spokesman for the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
“We’ve had a really good shoulder season — much, much better than expected — and anticipate that that continues throughout the summer,” he said. “Hopefully, we get lucky and the storms stay away.”