When an industry can recover so quickly from a worldwide pandemic, generating more revenue than a previous record year, you know something spectacular is happening. The amazing travel and tourism recovery Palm Beach County experienced in 2021 is worth celebrating, and that’s exactly what the industry did at their annual Travel Rally Day last Friday, May 6 at the Drive Shack, a golf entertainment venue in West Palm Beach.
Discover the Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing organization for Palm Beach County hosted the much-awaited event, which drew a large crowd of key industry representatives from the travel and tourism industry there to celebrate the 39th annual National Travel and Tourism Week.
“The Palm Beaches really is the place to be,” said Mary Lou Bedford, Vice President of Development & Marketing of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, before she presented the first award to The Boca Raton, the winner of the best accommodations partner category.
James Hanson, a Discover of the Palm Beaches board member followed by announcing the non-accommodation partner award to Pura Vida Divers. But the biggest winner was Equestrian Sport Productions, which was awarded the 30th Providencia Award, presented by County Mayor Robert Weinroth, Board of County Commissioners District.
The Providencia Award gets its name from a cargo ship that ran aground ashore of what is now the Town of Palm Beach in 1878. It was credited with creating Florida’s first coconut grove and introducing the non-native coconut palm to the Palm Beaches. This year marks the 30th Providencia Award given out since 1989 to a local business, organization, or individual based on their extraordinary contributions to the vitality and prosperity of the Palm Beaches as a tourist destination. This year, 11 nominations were received and evaluated by the Providencia committee.
The awards recognized the above partners whose commendable efforts helped discover the Palm Beaches, with their mission, vision, and brand promise, creating and implementing innovative marketing plans, participating in company initiatives, and taking on leadership roles within the travel and tourism industry. For these awards, nominations were submitted by each of the Discover the Palm Beaches departments to a committee of seven Discover staff, who met to review the recommendations and vote. With over 270 partners, and many worthy candidates, deciding a winner has always been challenging, they said.
The awards took only a few minutes—an “Oscar” moment that even had a funny and memorable “Chris Rock” Oscar reference delivered by Hanson. But the day’s aha moment came when Discover the Palm Beaches, CFO, Evan Lomrantz took the podium, highlighting the collective strength of the U.S. travel industry, and this year’s theme: #FutureOfTravel—a timely reflection on where the industry has been, and more importantly, where it is heading.
“With 7.8 million visitors, our industry has reached 96% of our record-breaking year, 2019,” said Lomrantz. “Continuing last year’s momentum, the first quarter of 2022, has been nothing less than extraordinary. Hotel occupancy was up 21% from 2021 at 76.3%. The average daily rate at hotels reached $333, a 46% increase year over year. Revenue per available room (RPAR) was up 77%. Total room nights sold was up 31%.”
And perhaps the most impressive highlight was the total lodging room revenue, which according to Discover’s calculations, was up by a whopping 84% year-over-year—jumping from 267 million to 489 million dollars. This was 39% higher than their record from 2019.
“The Palm Beaches is on pace to generate 1.25 billion dollars in room revenue this year,” continued Lomrantz, who explained how that translates to a record 75 million dollars in tax revenues, a 440% increase from the 54 million dollars in a record the County experienced in 2019.
The season doesn’t seem to be stopping, at least that’s what the travel and tourism industry in the Palm Beaches is saying regarding its record-setting year. After a challenging two years, the industry has really started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Travel Rally Day is a way for Discover to thank everyone in the Palm Beach County tourism industry—the hotels, restaurants, accommodations, and attractions—all of the businesses out in the communities helping to rebound in a way no one thought possible. Together, they are all helping leisure travelers and event attendees create long memories here in the Palm Beaches, and most importantly, putting people to work in Palm Beach County—a reason to celebrate during National Travel and Tourism Week.
For those who are new to the industry, National Travel and Tourism Week is an annual tradition in the US Travel community. It is a time when travel and tourism professionals across the country unite to celebrate the enormous value that travel brings to our economy, businesses, and personal lives.
Last year, their message was one of recovery and progress. This year, they celebrated full recovery and the triumphs this industry and its community have seen over the past year. Triumphs would not have been possible without the travel and tourism representatives and their collective efforts to drive tourism to the Palm Beaches.
“From connections to friendships to jobs and economic impact, travel is powerful,” he said, illustrating how the industry is reaching new levels of growth. “After the busy season we’ve all experienced, we can attest that the future is indeed bright and we will do everything within our power to keep up this momentum towards creating a year-round season here in the Palm Beaches. A vibrant year-round tourism economy is the goal of Discover the Palm Beaches.”
According to him, they believe they have the right team, ideas, plans, partners, and commitments to make this happen. And what does this do to our local economy? Much. For starters, it provides immense resources for strategic tourism infrastructure and development elements, as well as marketing and promotional investments to make our county more competitive. As the above numbers indicate, the Discover the Palm Beaches brand marketing community engagement teams have been busy in quarter one, with several consumer activations at community events.
In March, the Palm Beaches took over New York City with a consumer activation in Grand Central Terminal. This put the Palm Beaches brand in front of millions of future visitors by using an all-encompassing media plan. The Discover the Palm Beaches team developed a comprehensive, highly visual visitors guide that will provide a completely fresh look at the diversity of assets in our destination.
Imagining the destinations that speak to each of us can make all the difference. And with that goal in mind, Discover the Palm Beaches’ digital team bought nearly 250 million impression packages across display, social, audio, connected TV, and search. This resulted in 2 million clicks and 70,000 website users, with an economic impact of over 65 million dollars on our local economy. All of these efforts resulted in a record website visitor quarter, with over one million visitors. And that’s how they’re building year-round visitation and tourism.
According to Lomrantz, their social media team continues to make a splash across all platforms. They have reached over 577,000 followers across seven social media platforms, secured over 78 million impressions, and hosted 23 influencers. And because of this, Palm Beach County is the most followed destination in the country on Tik Tok. They also have the fastest-growing Instagram page and most engaged Facebook audience in the State of Florida.
They have also re-engaged representation in Europe, Canada, and Latin America, with particular sales efforts in Mexico and Columbia, and continue to market those domestic markets that show a consistent potential for travel to the Palm Beaches. Their group sales and destination services team has been on the road meeting with customers and attending 23 trade shows, conferences, and industry events.
At Global Meetings Industry Day, they promoted the community partnerships, showcasing how they are bringing the community into meetings. They also showcased all of the ways the Palm Beaches embrace prioritizing wellness and sustainability.
To end the day’s celebration, County Mayor Robert Weinroth put everything into perspective. “Year-round sunshine and warm weather, pristine beaches, limitless outdoor activities, award-winning parks and recreation and so much more make Palm Beach County one of the best places to live, work, play, and yes, vacation.”
With so much to offer, it is easy to understand why our county’s future looks so bright. For those who call the Palm Beaches home, the slower pace of daily life is just right. The cities we live in feed creativity, stability, and entertainment, providing a strong, stable, and diversified economy, and a pleasant way of life. For visitors, well, what else is there to say? South Florida is picturesque, with plenty to see and do. No wonder the tourism and hospitality industry is one of the top industries in 2021. Almost eight million visitors created seven billion dollars of economic impact and over 87,000 jobs. “How fortunate we are in Palm Beach County—our home,” concluded Weinroth.