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Hotels, attractions celebrate holiday business
Coke Zero 400 contributes to uptick in Daytona area tourism numbers

The Fan Zone at Daytona International Speedway offers fun and games for young race fans before Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 race. NEWS-JOURNAL/DAVID TUCKER
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end art_main_pic BYLINE
By Jim Abbott
jim.abbott@news-jrnl.com
PUBDATE
Published: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 1:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 2:43 p.m.
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DAYTONA BEACH — Big crowds for Volusia County beaches, fireworks and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway generated a positive holiday weekend at area hotels, restaurants and attractions, hoteliers and business owners said Tuesday.

“The crowds were fantastic,” said Brock Falfas, general manager of the Daytona Lagoon waterpark, across the street from Ocean Walk Shoppes on North Atlantic Avenue. “It definitely helped us with the big Fourth of July event being celebrated downtown in Daytona Beach. Our business was up 10 to 15 percent overall. For us, it was a pure three-day weekend.”

For area hoteliers, the weekend was more of a mixed bag, with some reporting that the Independence Day holiday falling on a Monday caused visitors to book shorter stays. Still, the outlook was generally encouraging, according to responses to an informal online survey by the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.

“We’re doing slightly better than last year for first four days of July,” said Gary Brown, owner of the 91-room Sun Viking Lodge in Daytona Beach Shores. “We’re up in ADR (average daily rate) and we’re slightly up in occupancy. Monday night it took a dive, so I think we’ll lose a little steam over the next couple of days, but it was a good weekend for us.”

Although occupancy was down, reaction to the weekend was still upbeat at the 323-room Plaza Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach.

“We sold fewer rooms than last year for the weekend as a whole, but ADR was much stronger this year,” said Ted Yeatts, the hotel’s general manager. “What that tells us is there seems to be more demand in the marketplace and people willing to spend a little bit more for nicer accommodations. Overall, revenue was better than last year.”

The push by area tourism leaders in recent years to create a more family-friendly atmosphere in Daytona Beach was noticed by at least one visiting family.

“We come here a couple of times a year,” said Marcus Kusler, 45, of Ocala, who had stopped for ice cream on Main Street with his family of 10. “It’s more family-oriented than it was in the ’90s and the parking has gotten a lot better.”
Kusler pointed at a homeless man sleeping underneath the entrance to the Main Street Pier as something he would change.

“There are more locals sleeping under the bridges, that I’ve noticed,” Kusler said. “It makes it questionable whether you want to let your young kids walk around on their own. But for the most part, there are a lot of great improvements.”