ENGLEWOOD — AAA Travel projects 33 million Americans will vacation away from home this Labor Day Holiday weekend, a 2.9 percent increase from 2011.
Local hotels, resorts and lodgings are hoping to see a similar bump.
“We’re optimistic but cautious,” said Lorah Steiner, director of the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau. “The entire (tourism) industry was below the line in three to four years of the recession. We’re starting to recover now. We’re above the line this year. It’s been a very good year for tourism.”
Steiner projects 2012 will see further success, continuing the improving profit trend since 2010.
Susan R. McQuaid of Turtle Bay Condos on Manasota Key rents out eight old-Florida-style two-bedroom units. Labor Day bookings this year are contingent on last-minute reservations, she said.
“The beaches are a mess (from Tropical Storm Debby), but the business has been successful overall,” McQuaid said. “It’s been disappointing with the weather, and most of our rentals at this time are local.”
Kacie Salerno of Conch Out Vacation Rentals on Beach Road in Englewood downplays weather being a major factor for reservations.
“We have people who are well aware this is hurricane season and September is a little more active than others,” Salerno said. “I think we’re a little bit early now since (Tropical Storm) Isaac is out there. It’s still technically the middle of August. I don’t think it deters people. We do have people who question, ‘What happens if?’ in the event of a hurricane, and we just go over the policies with that.”
David Lipstein, owner and broker of Manasota Key Realty, has been dealing with rentals for more than 30 years in the area. He says a number of factors affect the business at this time.
“Historically, Labor Day isn’t as strong as years past,” Lipstein said. “A lot of it I think has to do with the current economics of life in general.”
One major factor affecting summer business is the majority of Florida schools starting earlier in the summer.
“Labor Day is the official end of the summer season, since the school year in Florida changed about 10 to 15 years ago,” Lipstein said. “It used to be since before then that schools didn’t go back until after Labor Day. Now with the vast majority of K-12 schools going back with the first or second week of August, that closes out the majority of the summer business, and Labor Day has become something of a last hurrah for the families that are coming down.”
Lipstein says most of his clientele come from Central Florida, predominantly the Orlando area. These generate most of his summer and fall business.
“Lots of the people who come down are families taking their summer vacations,” Lipstein said. “Lots of them bring kids. They’re here to fish. They bring a boat. They’re spending a week or two, instead of a month or two in the area.”
Despite families departing when the school year starts, many still make reservations for fishing.
“Now, after Labor Day, during the months of September and October, which are some of the prettiest times of the year, you get more of the diehard fishing people,” Lipstein said. “Maybe not bringing their wife and kids this time; they’re here to fish. Still the majority of them are the Central Florida people.”
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