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Vacation rentals, hotels seeing boost in summer business

Short-term vacation rentals reporting biggest spike in occupancies

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jul 21, 2021

The Lani Kai Island Resort has reported a busy summer on Fort Myers Beach. / Photo provided

For many hotels and short-term rentals on Fort Myers Beach, the season hasn’t ended this summer.

Short-term vacation rental operators say business is up about 40% over a normal summer. Hotels are reporting occupancies of more than 80% and as much as 90% according to information from hotel management and the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Even during weekdays, some hotels are reporting being fully booked this summer.

“We can definitely say we’re still in season and we’re usually out of season by Easter. It’s incredible,” Distinctive Beach Rentals owner Mark Loughrey said. His company rents out more than 300 homes around Fort Myers Beach for owners. They are renting at about 80% occupancy, Loughrey said.

Loughrey said the summertime is usually when business from outside the country arrives – such as Canada and Europe. Due to travel restrictions, that isn’t happening this year yet travelers from around the country have replaced them and more.

The Pink Shell Resort is running well over 80% occupancy this summer as a busy season on Fort Myers Beach has continued through July. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

“Oklahoma, Texas, New York, you name it. They are coming from all over,” Loughrey said.

For vacation rentals, most stay about a week though some are staying a month, Loughrey said.

Tamara Pigott, Director of the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau, said her agency is “seeing strong demand from leisure travelers this summer. There is quite a bit of pent-up demand as people are now ready to vacation again. As you would expect, our hotels are reporting that group/convention travel and international travel, are still off significantly.”

According to data provided by Pigott, hotel occupancy in Lee County for April was 80.6%, up from 75.5% in 2019. For May, hotel occupancy was 71.7%, up from 65.5% in 2019.

Vacation rentals were up at a much-higher clip countywide with occupancy at 70% in April, compared to 44% in 2019; 59% in May compared to 34% for the same month in 2019 and 69% in June compared to the same period in 2019.

Guests arrive at the Pink Shell Resort

Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak said several hotels have reported 90% occupancy with several fully booked at times this month. “It’s crazy,” Liszak said.

Liszak said she believes the reasons for the increased activity this summer is “pent-up travel demand” which grew during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liszak said the restrictions on traveling overseas combined with a cruise industry currently docked, have made traveling to Florida a popular choice. “There are a lot of newcomers,” Liszak said. “A lot of people from New England. People are exploring.”

Melissa Schneider, director of marketing for the Lani Kai Island Resort, said business is up there as well. “Throughout this summer, we’ve certainly noticed a vast increase in beach bar (and) restaurant patrons and hotel guests visiting and staying with us – much more than a typical summer season, and it looks like that trend will continue, as our occupancy numbers continue to fill higher and quicker throughout even August, September and October.”

Schneider said the resort is making upgrades to its hotel property and guestrooms through the summer months, so some rooms are out of order while crews move through the projects.

Short-term vacation rentals on Fort Myers beach are up 40% or more for this summer compared to 2019. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

“Even with that, and letting would-be guests know that they may hear construction sounds during weekday mornings/afternoons, they don’t care and are determined to make it to our beach for some much-needed fun in the sun with us this summer,” Schneider stated in an email.

Bill Waichulis, Senior Vice President of Operations for the Pink Shell Resort, said “we’re well over 80% occupancy.”

Waichulis said Fort Myers Beach is seeing increased activity this summer in part due to traveling restrictions which is keeping American travelers in the country and away from places like the Bahamas, Mexico, Europe and cruise ships. “I think that will continue,” Waichulis said.

The Pink Shell Resort continues to see much of its business from the Midwest, and some Northeast travelers. Much of the business is from families taking vacations together before school resumes.

Waichulis expects travel to slow in August and September. The summer is usually a busy time for the Pink Shell Resort so the resort is not seeing such an increase in occupancy as it is able to maintain its room rates due to a demand for hotel rooms in the area, Waichulis said.

Judy Haataja, who owns TriPower Vacation Rentals on Fort Myers Beach, said her business has been about double for this time of year, with occupancies at about 65% overall and 76% for weekly rentals. A number of the units she rents out for owners are fully booked for July, she said.

“It’s amazing,” Haataja said. “Our season just didn’t end.” Haataja said visitors are traveling from “all over.” Most of her customers are from the Midwest. Haataja, who has a marketing partnership with Marriott Hotels & Resorts, said she expects a cooling-off period as the summer winds down.

Residential homes are most popular, with families happy to rent away from the water as long as they are within walking distance, Haataja said.

“A lot of families are getting back together after covid and taking a vacation. You might have two generations at once,” she said.