How was the summer? Good question, and October is when the Chamber compiles and examines the hard data from the season. The Chamber references monthly data reports provided by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT), including occupancy data for lodging business, tourism dollars spent, and other measures. This information, in turn, is used region-wide to give context to tourism-related news stories and help local decision-makers respond to changing economic conditions. It also informs the Chamber’s policy agenda for community issues that are impacted by tourism, such as attainable housing, or the urgently needed replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges.
This summer, we heard from some members that early visitation numbers seemed lower than in past years. In the late spring, a handful of lodging businesses said they received fewer bookings. Others heard from customers who were postponing their trip due to the planned maintenance work on the Sagamore Bridge. Based on this feedback, we expected occupancy rates for lodging to be off by as much as 15-20%. In fact, the numbers tell a different story. Looking at the data for May through September, the 2023 summer season seems, overall, to be squarely on track with last year’s season.
Although the spring construction wreaked havoc with our increasingly commuter-driven workforce, occupancy numbers were up over the same time last year. May, historically an off-peak month, grew by 3% (from 52.1% to 55%) as compared to May of 2022. This growth happened despite an increase in the average daily rate – a measure of the average lodging rate paid for rooms sold. This means more people stayed in hotels even though the average cost per night was higher.
Lodging occupancy stayed relatively steady during the traditional peak summer months of July and August, as well, dipping only 1-2% as compared to the same months in 2022. Average daily rates were about $2-3 lower than during the same time in 2022. These numbers were much better for Cape Cod than they were for some of our closest competitors.
What do these numbers say about the state of the Cape’s tourist economy? As our team delved into the data, a picture of a resilient and adaptable business community emerged. Faced with the return of international travel, inflation, and other external economic conditions, Cape Cod’s lodging businesses adjusted their rates to continue attracting visitors to our region and keep business steady as compared to last year.
This summer has proven our economy can withstand major construction, poor weather, and even workforce limitations, and that Cape Cod remains a go-to vacation destination.