St. Augustine Drawing More Overnight Visitors Ahead of 450th Anniversary
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St. Augustine, Florida will turn 450 years old later this year, but already the city and surrounding St. Johns County have received an early birthday present.
According to Stuart Korfhage of the Florida Times-Union, the latest data shows that hotels in St. Johns County are gaining popularity among overnight visitors.
Based on information gathered by Smith Travel and presented to the area's Tourist Development Council earlier this week, the local hotel occupancy rate is up more than seven percent over the past year through March 2015.
The average cost of a local hotel room has increased over the past year as well, rising 4.3 percent to $119 daily.
With winter wreaking havoc across the U.S. and many in search of a spring break destination, last month proved to be a successful one for St. Augustine, with the local hotel occupancy rate reaching 79 percent, up nearly three percent from March 2014.
"Guest experience is a huge part of it and general awareness," said St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau executive director Richard Goldman via Korfhage. "What we have found in talking to the visitors is they see much of the crowds as an affirmation of their decision to come here."
The encouraging figures are consistent with St. Augustine's current trajectory.
According to a report cited by Korfhage last fall, year-to-date hotel revenue in St. Augustine through October 2014 saw an increase of 9.1 percent over the previous year, reaching $128 million. That growth came on the heels of a 7.5 percent increase in year-to-date revenue in October 2013 and an 8.7 percent rise in year-to-date revenue recorded in October 2012.
The boost in tourism has in turn allowed St. Augustine to invest in the guest experience with tourist attractions and new businesses popping up throughout the city. And with St. Augustine's 450th anniversary on the horizon, the city and surrounding area are poised to receive even more attention.
"The media is either going to come to us or we are coming to them," said VCB director of promotions and strategic alliances Rick Hensler via Korfhage. "We’ll be doing a satellite media tour. We take a combination of talent and historians, and they’ll be doing interview after interview after interview. They’ll be prebooked for specific times in the key markets: New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, etc."
"I expect we’re going to have the same kind of reaction, response and effect that we had from the 500th [Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida]," he added.
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