Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Recovery by 2014

It appears from projections that domestic visitor person-trips won’t claw back to ’06 and ’07 levels until 2014 according to projections by DK Shifflet and IHS Global Insight.

That doesn’t mean recovery won’t begin as early as 2010. It just means it will take that long to rehydrate. And even when the number of “bodies” increases, it will take revenues--which have a delayed supply and demand reaction--much longer to reach and surpass their earlier levels. Most of the recovery will be leisure driven. It may take much longer--if at all--for business travel including conventions to recover.

Durham visitation has fallen harder than most because Durham draws a much higher proportion of travelers via air than other more "rubber-tire" destination areas either nearby or in other parts of the state. That means our visitor-related indicators are more robust, often by double digits over say Raleigh-Cary NC or Greensboro-High Point.

But the higher you go, the further and faster you fall when things decelerate as Durham learned in 2001, even prior to 9/11 and now during this downturn.

Durham needs to do everything it can to accelerate the recovery. City and County budgets depend on visitors now for $40+ million to help fund everything from education and services to police and fire protection. This year just the room occupancy tax alone will be down $1 million.

Unfortunately, just when DCVB needed to be at its most vigorous, we had to begin cutting back on expenses as early as November. We’re down as well in staff resources by 30%. But that’s the down side of self-funding visitor promotion with a tax on visitors.

The good news…the decline has bottomed…still spongy and hasn’t started back up but it has bottomed.

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