A boom in new hotels suggests happy days are here again for tourism.
About a dozen hotels will open in Broward this year — the biggest surge in the county in the past decade.
- Home2 Suites by Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport-Cruise Port, Dania Beach — 130 rooms
- Plunge Beach Hotel, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea — 163 rooms
- Hyde Resort & Residences, Hollywood—407 rooms
- Hampton Inn Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach—102-room hotel expected to open on May 26
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Fort Lauderdale —108-room hotel slated to open in December
- Residence Inn Center Port Business Park, Pompano Beach—112-room hotel in will open in the June
- Tryp by Wyndham Maritime Fort Lauderdale—150-rooms
- Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort—290 rooms
- Dania alone could welcome four new hotels, including Morrison —143-rooms; Comfort Suites Downtown Dania—104-rooms; Wyndham Garden—142-rooms; and a former Sheraton rebranding to Le Meridien.
It’s “super-exciting,” said Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor Bureau, the county’s official tourism marketer. “And it’s due largely to an influx of affluent travelers and greater recognition of the destination as an attractive and competitively priced place to do business and enjoy the benefits of our appealing lifestyle and surroundings.”
Preliminary visitation numbers released by the bureau show Broward welcomed 12.27 million domestic visitors in 2016, up 4 percent from 2015, according to preliminary numbers from the bureau. A million international travelers visited last year, excluding Canadians.
Hoteliers and industry analysts seem fairly confident the county can easily absorb the room surge. But some areas may fare better than others.
“Most of the new supply of rooms is not on the beach. The beach will fill up first, so Fort Lauderdale will be fine,” said Christian Charre, senior vice president of Miami-based CBRE Hotels. “For limited service hotels on the outskirts, the situation may be more competitive … still travel is up, and the expansion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is working so 1,800-plus more rooms is not major. I think it should be easily absorbed.”
So far this year, Broward’s tourist arrivals are about even with 2016, but room rates and occupancy in traditional hotels are down, Ritter noted.
Currency and economic woes in source markets like Canada and Brazil helped to keep some would-be visitors at home. And as non-traditional accommodation alternatives such as Airbnb and HomeAway become increasingly popular with travelers, traditional hotel occupancy has taken a hit.
“The hotels are coming on line as Broward becomes a more powerful and attractive market,” said Daniel Peek, senior managing director at commercial real estate firm HFF. “Miami has become more expensive, busy and crowded, while Fort Lauderdale offers a different experience. Fort Lauderdale has seen dramatic changes in 20 years in terms of investments on the beach, the cruise port and airport and in retail, all of which bodes well for future tourism demand. I anticipate that over the next 10 to 20 years, Fort Lauderdale will continue to be a very attractive market. It’s a pretty dynamic market, generally speaking.”
“South Florida is still doing great,” in terms of tourism. Patel pointed to expanded airline service, a strong cruise market and the soon-to-launch Brightline passenger express train service,” said Jay Patel, president and CEO of Luckey’s, which has eight hotels in Broward and recently broke ground on its ninth.
Other hoteliers like Doug Barrow, general manager at the newly opened Plunge Beach Hotel, also aren’t too worried about the influx of new rooms, having experienced rapid absorption of even more rooms in other top Florida tourism destinations such as Orlando.
“This area has such a strong demand from leisure travelers all over the world and so I think there’s still plenty of room for growth in hotels in these parts,” Barrow said.
Ritter is optimistic about the summer. “We’re going to be better than OK,” she said. “Americans will travel more domestically than in summers past. So I think summer looks good in terms of visitor numbers.”