Summer tourism spending in Newport, Bristol counties sets new record

DISCOVER NEWPORT REPORTED the region collected a record $5 million in state hotel taxes in fiscal 2023./COURTESY R.I. TURNPIKE AND BRIDGE AUTHORITY

NEWPORT – Increases in visitation, summer events and higher daily hotel room rates combined to give Newport a banner fiscal 2023 tourism season, according to data provided by Discover Newport, the city’s chief destination marketing organization.

A draft of the fiscal 2023 audit presented to the Discover Newport board of directors on Nov. 28 shows Newport and Bristol counties collected a record total of $5 million in state hotel taxes, 96% of which came from Newport and Middletown.

Total lodging occupancy reached 60% for the year and the counties saw a 5% spike in average nightly room rates to $236.

Discover Newport President and CEO Evan Smith said the reasons for the positive performance were Newport’s proximity to larger metropolises, the increase in
outdoor events and the continued rebound of the international, business and cruise ship markets.

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Now, tourism officials are preparing for what they hope will be a successful offseason, a continuation of a concerted effort to make Newport an attractive year-round destination.

Discover Newport invested approximately $4.5 million in year-round sales and marketing to outside regions, including Connecticut, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Virginia.

Recent data shows that hospitality consumer prices may be reaching a breaking point. According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey, labor costs have jumped 6.4% over the past 12 months and 30% over three years, while menu prices rose 7% in the northeast in the past 12 months, the highest of any region in the country.

Smith acknowledged that economic uncertainty could hamper Newport’s momentum, but pointed out that inflation decreased slightly in 2023. And the city is filling next summer with another season on large-scale events.

The historic Newport Country Club will host the 44th U.S. Senior Open Championship in June, which was rescheduled after being canceled in 2020. Smith expects the tournament to be the largest event in summer 2024. The most recent professional tour event in the state was last held in 2011 when the U.S. Women’s Amateur took place at the Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington.

And the Infosys Hall of Fame Open, which in 2023 brought a total economic impact of $20 million, will take place for the last time from July 14 to 21, 2024.

Smith said he expects a slowdown in the leisure market but a 100% recovery in the business and group sectors, a reversal of the post-pandemic tourism rebound. And Discover Newport has adequate operating reserve “to keep sales and marketing plans intact,” he said.

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com

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