Florida Panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast See Bookings Soar
As the country starts to open up and reservations start to flow, nowhere has received more attention and associated controversy than Florida, especially the Panhandle. As Florida travel restrictions for vacation rentals have lagged seriously behind hotels we have seen frustrations erupt and petitions filed. Meanwhile, it is no secret that Alabama Gulf Coast has reaped the benefits of this dispute and has rebounded much faster than their neighbors, but how did it shake out as we approach Memorial Day Weekend?
Comparing the booking lead time for the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast in 2019 and 2020, we look at the direct impact of COVID travel restrictions as well as the local regulations that came along with it. The chart below shows the % of bookings by day since the start of the year where there is a reservation focused around Memorial Day Weekend. For 2020, we can see the dearth of bookings that occurred between 70 and 30 days out (mid-March to late-April), followed by a steady uptick in the Gulf Coast as the Panhandle floundered with restrictions. However, as restrictions were relaxed on May 19th, we immediately saw a massive increase in reservations, with close to a quarter of reservations for Memorial Day Weekend coming in on just May 19th and 20th. Consequently reservations for the Gulf Coast dropped back closer to normal levels as more options became available to vacationers.
Looking at year over year lead time for both regions, in 2020, 56% and 57% of reservations were made within 15 days of arrival, in the Gulf Coast and Panhandle respectively, compared to in 2019 when it was just 22% and 19%. However, with all counties now relaxing restrictions we expect the trend of a more balanced lead time in the Flori-Bama region to continue.
We wish everyone a lovely and safe Memorial Day, especially as well as some well deserved rest for the reservationists in the Panhandle!