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Jacksonville hotel industry recovering from pandemic slump

The Jacksonville Beach Margaritaville hotel.
Heather Schatz
/
WJCT News

Jacksonville's hotel industry, alongside other Florida markets, is showing a major increase in revenue compared with 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report from the American Hotel and Lodging Association and Kalibri Labs ranks Jacksonville 45th out of the 50 top hotel markets. But when it comes to recovering from the revenue slump caused by the pandemic, Jacksonville nears the front of the pack with other Sunshine State metropolises like Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

The lodging association projects Jacksonville's 2022 hotel revenue for business travel at $296 million and hotel revenue for leisure travel at over $326 million. Both figures are big improvements over 2019 revenue — by 3.25% and 16.77%, respectively.

That's performing ahead of the national average, driven by a very polarized and uneven recovery between many major cities.

The top two U.S. markets, New York City and Washington, D.C., have decreased more than 20% in hotel revenue for business travel and are also in the red for leisure travel.

In contrast, Miami, one of the big winners in the report, has shown a 23% jump in business revenue. That increase of $274 million — for a projected total of $1.5 billion — is nearly equal to Jacksonville's total projected revenue for the year.

Tampa and Fort Lauderdale also show significant revenue growth from 2019, even better than Jacksonville's and well ahead of the majority of U.S. markets.

The reported revenues are not adjusted for inflation, and Kalibri notes that for most markets the hotel industry will likely not see a real recovery for several years.

While the jobs market overall is cooling, it's still tilted in favor of labor as the lodging association reports more than 115,000 vacant positions at hotels nationwide. An association survey in September reported that 81% of hotels have increased wages to attract new employees, and 1 in 3 have expanded benefits.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or Rtroncoso@wjct.org and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.