I get a lot of calls seeing how the rental market is doing. Below is a very good snapshot into how 2010 is shaping up by the Daily Advance's Cindy Beamon:
By Cindy Beamon
The signs are good. Vacation homes are booked. Weekend traffic toward the Outer Banks creeps along, a frustration for motorists no doubt but a positive omen for business owners remembering last year’s disappointing season.
As the peak of the tourist season shows promise, the only spoiler could be the unpredictable — a tropical storm or the unmentionable something worse.
Currituck Tourism Director Diane Nordstrom said the heavy traffic is a good indicator that tourism on the Outer Banks is returning to normal. Vacation bookings are also looking up. Last year, vacationers could wait for a better deal by delaying their plans. This year, vacationers who wait are missing out. Most vacation homes and hotel accommodations are near capacity, Nordstrom said.
One case in point, said Nordstrom, was the call she received from a frantic vacationer after his plans fell through for a private rental. He needed accommodations for 19 and had only a couple weeks to make the arrangements. Last year, he would have been more fortunate. This year, he went through a list of the big rental companies and found nothing.
Vacation rental companies say those who wait to reserve vacation homes risk losing out.
For hotels, vacationers are continuing to reserve rooms at record rates, said Jeff Tack, general manager for the Hampton Inn in Corolla.
“We’re having a fantastic, record-setting year,” Tack said.
Since early spring, the 123-room hotel has filled 119 to 120 rooms every night, he said.
Tack said the hotel did well last year as vacationers opted for shorter, less-expensive vacations. This year is even better, although there is a difference, he said. Instead of Porsches and Mercedes in the parking lot, like last year, the Hampton Inn is back to accommodating more of its regular clientele. The average stay is about three or four days, Tack said.
Only one thing could spoil the good season: bad weather and more particularly, Tropical Storm Colin which threatens to move toward the East Coast by Sunday. Hotel guests are already concerned, although projections track the hurricane making landfall closer to South Carolina and Georgia.
Ross Twiddy, director of marketing for Twiddy Realty, said a storm has the potential of ruining a good season so far.
“If it’s a quiet storm season, I think it’s going to be a great year for the Outer Banks,” Twiddy said.
Vacation bookings got off to a slow start this spring, but have picked up dramatically in the summer months. As long as the weather remains clear, the season should be the best it’s been in two years, a welcome relief from previous years when a downturn in the national economy scared away vacationers.
“It’s a strong season, and it looks to continue into late August and September,” Twiddy said.
Rentals for 2010 are already better than 2009 with bookings at or near 100 percent. For next weekend, Twiddy’s company has rented 880 vacation homes at 100 percent capacity. Only 15 rental homes are open for the next week, and the rest of the month looks just as promising.
One of the positive indicators that tourism is on the upswing has been the traffic snarls that Twiddy calls a “cursed blessing.”
Highway Patrol Sergeant Tony Parrish said heavy traffic has been the cause of several fender-benders, particularly over the weekend. Last weekend, the highway patrol responded to 14 collisions in Currituck. Since early July, the Highway Patrol has responded to seven to 11 collisions each weekend.
Parrish said the Highway Patrol has increased its presence on N.C. Highway 168 and U.S. Highway 158 in response to this season’s heavy traffic.
At this week’s Currituck commissioners meeting, Chairman Paul O’Neal said he was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic from the Wright Memorial to Coinjock last weekend.
“It’s just like old times again,” O’Neal said, referring to the heavy traffic before the downturn.
Although vacation bookings are up, the health of retail sales remains uncertain, Nordstrom said.
The best indicator will come in three months when county sales tax receipts are available, she said.
For vacationers this season, the best advice Janice Farr, vice president of Sun Realty, offers is not to wait to book that vacation.
For rental home owners and all the other businesses that benefit from the tourism industry, everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for a strong finish to a good year.
“A few more weeks to go with no weather events, and we’ll be happy,” Farr said.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Posted by Jason Summerton at 10:59 AM