Jacksonville area hotels suffer occupancy drop over Labor Day weekend

Despite higher vacancy, lodging didn’t see damage from Hurricane Dorian.

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  • | 5:20 a.m. September 9, 2019
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Katie Mitura, vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Jacksonville
Katie Mitura, vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Jacksonville

Aside from the loss of business on Labor Day weekend, Jacksonville area hotels escaped Hurricane Dorian with “the best possible results after the storm,” said Katie Mitura, vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Jacksonville. 

On Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend, the two days for which Visit Jacksonville had data, occupancy rates in Jacksonville were down 24% and 40% from last year, respectively. 

Unlike the effects of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Mitura said she hadn’t heard of any hotels with storm damage. 

The relocation of the Florida State and Boise State football game to Tallahassee caused some hotel reservation cancellations, Mitura said. The Jacksonville Armada Labor Day Shootout, a regional youth soccer tournament with more than 200 teams participating, was canceled, primarily affecting hotels on the Southside, she said. That event will be rescheduled to Nov. 22-24.

Mitura said she suspects many people canceled their Labor Day vacations in Jacksonville.

“There’s definitely a significant impact economically,” Mitura said. Hotels “definitely lost out on a lot of rooms they expected to see last weekend.”

The week after Labor Day typically is slow because students return to class across the country. 

This year, hotels in evacuation zones at the Beaches were forced to close, some as early as Saturday, to prepare for the storm, said Nicole Chapman, director of the Northeast Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Northeast Florida Chapter. Most were closed two to four days, she said. 

Chapman said hotels in Amelia Island, such as the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, The Ritz-Carlton, Seaside Amelia and Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, closed starting Monday and reopened Thursday. 

Some of the losses were recouped with people evacuating locally to hotels outside evacuation zones, and emergency crews coming in from outside, Mitura said, but not all.

“Unfortunately hotels are open 365 days a year, so there’s not another Labor Day that we can just pretend is this weekend,” Chapman said. “So, unfortunately, you can’t recover from that. You just have to hope that as the hurricane season progresses, we don’t have anything that affects our region.”