FL - Why The Space Coast Hospitality Sector Is Soaring To New Heights

If you were one of the many people who tried to get a last-minute hotel booking near the Kennedy Space Center in August for the historic launch of Artemis 1, NASA’s mission to send humans back to the moon, you were probably disappointed—and perhaps even a bit gobsmacked. Most hotels were sold out for the weekend, with average daily rates up 70% year over year.

Welcome to the new normal for the Florida “Space Coast,” a coastal enclave roughly 50 miles east of Orlando and 80 miles south of Daytona Beach, which includes towns like Cocoa, Satellite Beach, Titusville, Merritt Island, Palm Bay and Melbourne. Business along the Space Coast has been booming, thanks in large part to the combined investment of both NASA and private space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin that are creating thousands of new jobs and blasting rockets into space nearly once a week—a pace not seen since the heyday of the NASA space program in the 1960s.

The spectacle has proven irresistible to many—both die-hard space fans and newbies. An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 spectators came out for the uncrewed Artemis 1 launch back in August, which was ultimately postponed until November. The result has been one of the best years on record for Space Coast tourism.

Peter Cranis, who heads up the Space Coast Office of Tourism, says that having “the only beach that doubles as a launch pad” gives the region a huge advantage over other places—but that’s not the whole story. He adds that proximity to Orlando, Port Canaveral and spectacular natural attractions all make the area an ideal tourist destination.

Hotels in the region are also getting a nice lift from the return of corporate and business travel, which lapsed during the pandemic. According to STR, 2022 hotel performance has surpassed pre-pandemic highs—with room night demand (hotel rooms rented) up 5% year over year.

My company has been bullish on the Space Coast for many years, and in my experience, hotel investors find several attributes of this market appealing—and would be wise to look for similar characteristics in other markets, as well. Here are a few of those attributes to consider.

1. Accessibility For Planes, Cars And Cruise Ships

Hotels in easy drive-to locations thrived during the pandemic and will likely continue to do so. But the Space Coast also benefits from proximity to two international airports: Orlando-Sanford International Airport, which offers nonstop flights to 98 U.S. cities, and Melbourne Orlando International Airport, where two new carriers are offering nonstop flights from Canada and the United Kingdom. People also come to the Space Coast region for cruises, and book hotels just before or after their journeys. Nearby Port Canaveral, the second-busiest cruise port in the world, had a record-breaking 2021 to 2022 fiscal year.

2. Proximity To Attractions

Rocket launches and world-class beaches are not the only demand drivers in the Space Coast; it also offers “Orlando’s closest beaches.” Orlando attracts over 75 million visitors per year, and many of those guests want to tag a beach experience onto their stay. Proximity to the theme parks of Orlando have historically provided a vital pipeline of potential guests to the region.

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