It’s no big surprise but tourism traffic appears to be down from a year ago on the Delaware beaches.
Figures from the Rehoboth-Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce point to a decline in hotel room occupancy leading into the July 4th holiday.
The pattern started in the slow winter months and continued into the summer, with the Chamber’s room count measurement dropping by more than 10% from a year ago in the period leading up to the July 4th holiday.
Earlier lodging industry stats indicated 2022 was slower than 2021 when people flocked to the beaches as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. There were few tears shed among hoteliers as room rates remained high.
Several factors are responsible for the dip, including uncertain June weather and more travel options, including a surge in airline and vehicle travel to distant locations in this country and overseas.
The economy is also a factor, with inflation and fears of a recession also making their way into family travel plans. While recent inflation numbers are encouraging, we are still stuck with higher prices across the board.
Beach businesses still face labor shortages that have increased wages and cut margins.
Still, the tourism season isn’t over, and recent hot weather could bring more people to the beach, especially day-trippers and those crashing at a friend’s house. And those Coastal Highway back-ups are still a fact of life.
There are no signs of hotel rates coming down. Getting a weekend hotel room near the water will set you back by $800 or more for a two-night stay.
We are also seeing a boomlet in hotel construction, as seen with the recent opening of a smaller boutique hotel under the Hilton banner in Rehoboth. Others are in the approval pipeline. Developers are betting travelers will pay more for upscale accommodations.
The effects of fewer visitors are not as big a deal as in the past for the local economy since coastal Sussex has a growing year-round population. Growth could become more muted if mortgage interest rates remain high.
There has been some cooling in the once-hot residential real estate market in Sussex County, with a slight drop in sales prices and increases in time on the market and inventory, Long and Foster and others reported. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.