Treasure Coast leaders beaming as tourism numbers rebound

'Business is incredible right now,' resort manager David Freeman says
Posted at 5:32 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 18:22:57-05

STUART, Fla. — Panic set in for many businesses and hotels at the beginning of the pandemic. But nearly two years later, tourism has bounced back.

Officials are seeing encouraging numbers as hotels experience numbers compared to pre-pandemic bookings.

Tucked off the road and sitting on the water near the St. Lucie Inlet, Pirate's Cove Resort and Marina in Stuart is a perfect little hideaway.

It has more than just rebounded from the pandemic — business is booming.

"Business is incredible right now," resort manager David Freeman said. "We are constantly completely booked out. The past two weeks we've been booked out every day of the week."

David Freeman, Pirate's Cove Resort and Marina in Stuart
David Freeman says occupancy at his Stuart resort has been higher than before the pandemic.

Freeman said numbers started turning around about six months after being forced to shut down for a few weeks in 2020. Now occupancy is up about 40% higher than it was in 2019.

"Recently I've been noticing a lot of people have been coming from the west coast, so they'll come across the state they'll stay here for three or four days, and then they'll go back across," Freeman said.

Tourism has bounced back across the Treasure Coast.

Indian River, St Lucie and Martin Counties are all reporting higher occupancy rates in 2021 than what they saw in 2019.

"When things were starting to open up people were comfortable coming down here. We also got CARES funding from the Board of County Commissioner, which really helped, so we did a missed milestone campaign," said Martin County tourism director Nerissa Okiye.

Nerissa Okiye, Martin County tourism director
Nerissa Okiye says tourism numbers continue to increase in Martin County.

All three counties worked together to launch unique videos and advertise to attract visitors.

Okiye said the numbers continue to climb so far in 2022.

"This year, compared to 2019, which has become the benchmark, we don't look at the other years," Okiye said. "We're up 54% compared to 2019."

"Especially now our tourism is picking up even more now," Freeman said. "It's colder up north, so we're getting a lot more tourism."

Some businesses are still facing challenges with staffing shortages, but the numbers look promising and occupancy rates are exceeding expectations.

Below are the latest hotel occupancy rates for the Treasure Coast:

Martin County

Leaders said that Martin County's occupancy rates were 3% higher in the fiscal year 2021 than in 2019.

St. Lucie County

Officials said that their occupancy rates are higher. 

From January to December, the county's 2021 occupancy rates are 4.6% higher than 2019. The county also added more hotel rooms to their inventory, which shows more demand.

Indian River County

According to Smith & Travel Research, the average occupancy rate for 2019 was 65.3% compared to 2021's rate at 66.7%.

Not only was the occupancy percentage up, but the average daily rate was up as well. The number increased from $132.90 per room in 2019 to $145.56 per room in 2021.