Saturday, August 08, 2015

Record: "Hotel booking numbers slim for Celebrate 450! (But no numbers revealed in article!)

Hotel booking numbers slim for Celebrate 450!
Posted: August 7, 2015 - 11:23pm
With the kickoff of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary celebration only 30 days away, demand and bookings for hotel rooms in the city over that weekend have been slow, according to Richard Goldman, CEO and president of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.

While St. Johns County was reported to have enjoyed a robust period of tourism in May, Goldman said the bottom line is there are still plenty of rooms available for the Labor Day weekend and Celebrate 450!, set to kick off Sept. 4 and run through Sept. 8.

Goldman said the lag in demand could be attributed to steep booking costs or just the timespan of the celebration.

“We’re hoping this will turn around and hoteliers will start looking into the production and opening up some things and things will pick up,” he said.

Kanti Patel is owner and CEO of Jalaram Hotels Inc., a collection of hotels located in St. Augustine and Jacksonville. Patel oversees hotels in the historic district, Spanish Quarter, on the beach and on the bayfront.

“We don’t have a high demand at this point,” he said. “Maybe some people don’t want to come to a crowd.”

Patel and others in the business are comparing the September celebration to Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road stopover in 2013 where hotels fared well.

“When Mumford announced they were going to hold a concert here, most hotels sold out in four to five hours,” Patel said. “It looks to me like that’s not going to happen that weekend.”

Although the two are often compared, Goldman said the stopover and the celebration are different.

“It’s a much more complex sale when you think of it from a transactional standpoint, but I think we’ll be fine,” he said.

Both he and Patel remain hopeful as travelers often make quick decisions and could come last minute.

St. Augustine has been recognized for a number of accolades in a number of publications including FamilyFun Magazine, National Geographic and USA Today’s travel section. A feature in the Aug. 9 edition of Parade magazine lists the city as one of the country’s “National Treasures.”

But it’s unclear if the city’s marketing efforts have reached far enough to round up the tourists in time for the celebration.

Patty Jimenez, leisure communication specialist for Visit Jacksonville, said there has been communications concerning the 450th but no marketing efforts in the neighboring county.

“When it comes to advertising St. Augustine’s big events we have not done any paid ads since our focus is Duval County,” she said in an email to The Record. “But I can tell you that St. Augustine is a very popular destination with our visitors so we do tell them about the many wonders the city offers in our Visitors Guide as well as our website.”

As for the hotels booking numbers, Jimenez said Visit Jacksonville doesn’t have a way of tracking those staying in Jacksonville with intent to visit St. Augustine.

However, they do know day trips to the historic sites are popular with their visitors.

As for Daytona Beach, Lori Campbell Baker of the convention and visitors bureau said in an email, “While some of our visitors might very well be timing their early September bookings to coincide with St. Augustine’s 450th, we’re not hearing anything specific just yet.”

Dana Ste. Claire, director of St. Augustine 450th Commission, said it’s likely people will come in for a day of the five-day celebration.

He’s confident bookings will pick up as the celebration gets closer but the important thing to keep in mind is the celebration of St. Augustine’s history.

“At the end of the day, this is a celebration for the community, by the community,” he said. “Tourism is important, but we want to focus on what is really important to us.”

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sponger2 08/08/15 - 03:29 am 50That's right.
Steep damn booking costs. Have you seen the price of rooms in St. Augustine? It's criminal under normal circumstances. Thank bed taxes for part of that. The rest is pure greed, the apex of which is the 450th. The mother of all pay days, or so they hope. The Disneyfication continues. Ghost tour and some truffles for your stay added to your B&B bill? Only $100.00 more. Cheese tray for your room? $50.00. Give us a break. The National Treasure referred to is what's being made off the circus atmosphere and high brow prices for everything.

If they really gave a hoot, residents would get such a cheap rate that they could afford to stay in town for the event, with free parking since we live in St. johns County. The address says St. Augustine on my Drivers License.

rkershner 08/08/15 - 06:42 am 30Overstatements
From the beginning, I believe the expectations of the opening weekend for the 450th anniversary, which is a year long celebration, have been completely overstated and over-emphasized. The constant focus on the Labor Day weekend crowds and traffic that it will create, has caused many to make a decision that they will not venture near the city on that weekend. At times, the expectations have been that the crowds would equal or exceed the Mumford & Sons concert. That was a single event. Those who wanted to come had no choice but to all arrive at one time. Many of us have joked that we were leaving town on Labor Day weekend because of crowd expectations. Why are bookings down? Why are people not planning to be here on the opening weekend? We scared them away.

Nigel 08/08/15 - 08:00 am 31Expection or Hype?
The 450th expectations falling flat? What a shocker! Even having lived here for 50 plus years, I barely care. Why would people living outside of driving distance? Add in the thought of dealing with a bottle-necked downtown traffic nightmare and the interest level goes down to nearly zero.

That was quite the bill of goods, a steaming pile of well presented hype........ PT Barnum wold be proud.

LocalColor 08/08/15 - 08:16 am 11"Whistling past the graveyard..."
Presumably, our local Junta will now announce that the "450" is not an anniversary, but a projected attendance.

Ah yes, the number one city in America may not bring in the big bucks for hotels, motels, notells and gin mills. The number one city may have to have a celebration that even the locals can enjoy. But, the hootenanny wasn't meant for the peasant taxpayers. It was for the credit card commandos who spend their money foolishly and drive around the lovely city while intoxicated.

1 comment:

Patty O'Connell said...

Maybe Karma..murder is ok with Shoar as Sheriff, some folks think Shoar is dirty. They want to vacation where truth and justice are a way of life, not death as in murder of Michelle O'Connell.