Savannah’s hospitality industry continued growing last year with hotel occupancy rates finishing about five percent above the national average. The outlook for 2017 and beyond continues to put the local occupancy rates on the upward trend, according to a presentation Thursday to a group of industry professionals.
“It’s a combination on the physical attributes and uniqueness of all things Savannah,” Mark Woodworth, senior managing director for CRBE Hotels, told a group of hotel professionals at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront for the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association’s annual Savannah forecast luncheon.
Savannah’s 2016 occupancy rates came in at 70.8 percent and he expects 2017 to finish slightly higher at 71.8 percent. Nationally, hotels started the year on a strong note, posting a 30-year high for Q2 occupancy, and are expected to finish the year around 65.6 percent, Woodworth said.
Woodworth also identified nearly a dozen hotel projects in Savannah, Pooler and Richmond Hill that are expected to bring more than 1,500 new hotel rooms during the next couple of years. He expects the new inventory to have a slight effect on occupancy rates in 2018, dropping them to 70.1 percent, which is still above the forecasted 2018 national rate of 65.7 percent.
Airbnb and other short-term rental companies continue to have an impact on the area’s lodging rates, but Woodworth said competition is not necessarily a bad thing for the industry. From July 2016 to June 2017 Airbnb reported about 52 percent occupancy in Savannah, which is 8.4 percent higher than the previous year.
“Anytime you have greater capacity to bring more and more visitors to a destination, that’s a good thing,” Woodworth said.
“… If the question is, ‘is Airbnb a friend or a foe’, that depends on where you come from. If you look at the overall strong performance that Savannah hoteliers have been able to demonstrate and room rates continue to go up in spite of Airbnb…..(it) suggests to me that there seems to be room for everybody.”
Savannah by the numbers
Year Occupancy Visitors
2012 63.7% 12.4 M
2013 67% 13 M
2014 69.7% 13.4 M
2015 71.8% 13.7 M
2016 70.8% 13.9 M