The two talked about some new marketing strategies: namely, that the CVB plans to market Asheville in some new markets, including Charleston, Nashville and Cincinatti. They also noted Asheville’s expected hotel building boom, saying that 1,000 new hotel rooms are planned for Asheville in coming years.
Here’s the script that Brown read from for her report this morning:
Hotel sales and occupancy have steadily climbed during the past six years, since the bottom of the recession.
We’re expecting that 2014 will set new records for the number of visitors to Asheville, and will slightly top the record high occupancy of 66-point-8 percent that was set in 2007.
As we evaluated the spring forecast, it became clear that early indicators point to one of the best spring seasons we’ve had in some time – despite the Dogwood Winter we’ve had the last few days.
Our forecast is based on OCCUPANCY, which is the number of rooms available divided by the number of rooms sold.
We have a supply of about 7,300 rooms in Buncombe County.
So, on an annual basis, we have 2.7-million rooms available to sell. In the last 12 months, 1.8-million rooms were sold in the County for OCCUPANCY of 66.5%.
Let’s take a look at this chart which demonstrates the path that we are following. Last March, occupancy was 60.7%. This March was up a little more than 3.5% to total 62.9% for the month.
Occupancy in Buncombe County was slightly higher than the state’s March occupancy rate of 62.3%.
However, if we look at weekend growth, the picture is even more robust, particularly when compared to the state and national averages.
Asheville’s Weekend occupancy was 81.6%, up from 77.3% the previous year and greatly surpassing the North Carolina weekend occupancy of 69.8% and the U-S average of 72.7%.
We’ve used this information and March results to establish a projection that occupancy will grow at a rate of 4-point-4 percent over last year throughout the spring and early summer.
We project that Weekend Occupancy in Buncombe County will average 93.3% April through June, and TOTAL OCCUPANCY will average about 75% for Spring.
REASONS FOR THE INCREASE — Stephanie
We have also considered national surveys as we look at our forecasting crystal ball.
The travel intentions of U.S. adults are the highest since 2007 according to the latest travelhorizons™ survey – a national study of 1,900 active travelers conducted by MMGY Global.
64% of US adults expect to take at least one leisure trip between now and August 2014 – surpassing the highest percentage previously recorded in the survey from February 2009.
This increase suggests the U.S. travel industry can expect an increase in demand during the upcoming spring and summer travel season.
Another good sign is an uptick in the consumer confidence index reported by the Conference Board. And, Consumer Sentiment also rose to the highest level in April since last summer.
Overall, the surveys concur that consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead.
Closer to home, we also have evidence that our increased investment in advertising this year, along with some tweaks to our sales process are contributing to demand growth.
Last year, our Meetings & Conventions Sales Team went through an evaluation of our group sales process. As a result of that, we developed a new set of tools and strategies that would help us improve our efforts in closing the deal and generating more booked group business.
This has allowed us to begin filling the pipeline in a more significant way. This spring we are seeing those efforts lead to significant increases in definite bookings.
On the marketing side, our continued investment in paid advertising, combined with a complementary media relations effort provides a significant return on investment.
We see that, not only in the current occupancy numbers, but in other key performance indicators which signal interest in Asheville vacations.
For example, visits to ExploreAsheville.com since the start of our fiscal year are up nearly 31 percent and we are on track to log nearly 4 million visits to the web site for our fiscal year ending in June.
Our media relations efforts have reached an audience of more than 1.1 BILLION already this year.
The Buncombe County TDA through the work of the CVB dedicated a record amount of more than 3.2 million dollars – to advertise the destination during this fiscal year with approximately half of that dedicated to spring advertising.
Our Asheville Is Calling print campaign has been running in magazines throughout the Southeast. And for the past six years our TV commercials have been focused on our core markets of Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro.
Our job is getting bigger with the expectation of nearly 1,000 new rooms coming onto the market during the next several years.
The Asheville C-V-B and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority recognized the need for market expansion. So I will turn it over now to our Vice President of Marketing Marla Tambellini to talk about our next steps and its contribution to our spring forecast.
With additional dollars dedicated to our spring campaign, we were able to do some further analysis and adjustments in order to broaden our scope in broadcast and add new markets. In addition to our core markets, we have added Columbia and Charleston South Carolina to the mix. All of this is further complemented by a substantial advertising investment in television by Biltmore during the spring.
In addition to the increased occupancy for March, we also saw a 53 percent increase in requests for travel guide and traffic to ExploreAsheville.com was up by nearly nine percent in March.
But this is just the first step in a larger dedicated effort to expand awareness and create stronger familiarity of Asheville on a more national scale. Key to growing demand is driving business within core markets while expanding to new markets to add new visitors.
We also believe that the use of video in a variety of channels – not just traditional TV – is the most effective delivery vehicle for sharing the Asheville experience which is why broadcast is critical to our marketing mix.
As revenues increase, we are earmarking additional funds for that advertising expansion which will allow us to enter three additional markets this summer – Knoxville and Nashville Tennessee and Cincinnati Ohio. Essentially we are going from 4 TV markets to nine in a few short months.