More than half of Polk County’s visitors are Floridians followed by people from the “New York-Michigan-Florida triangle” and adults make up two-thirds of Polk’s visitors.
Those numbers and a bunch more were revealed in a comprehensive study conducted earlier this year by Randall Travel Marketing. The company’s Judy Randall made a presentation in Polk on Sept. 21.
The objective of the study is to continue to develop a strategic marketing plan “to effectively position and market Polk County, Florida, as a travel and tourism destination of choice.”
Research was done in the county from March through August of this year. Randall staff did reconnaissance and mystery shopping, interviewed more than 200 people and put together lodging property and attraction manager surveys. Recommendations were also included in the study.
Comments were included about most of the county’s municipalities.
“Lake Wales looks great. While the Grand Hotel is still not restored, the rest of the downtown area looks clean and alive with residents and visitors enjoying the shops. This has to be one of the friendliest places in Florida. We found ourselves consistently smiling at local residents who engaged us, asked us where we were from and encouraged us to visit area sites.”
Bartow and Frostproof didn’t fare as well in the study.
“Bartow is a combination of business and government buildings. This is not a town of significant visitor interest.”
“Frostproof has changed little since our 2003 visit. The vintage car collection is now O’Hare Restorations and is a formal visitor attraction.”
Visits were also made to the visitors centers in the county and the remarks about Lake Wales were complimentary.
“The Lake Wales Visitor Center staff was friendly and helpful,” the study said. “They were diligent in suggesting things to see and do in Lake Wales primarily but also suggested attractions in Polk County. While no reference to lodging was made, they made sure we had a
visitor guide and map.”
The lodging numbers showed that Polk has approximately 7,014 lodging rooms with a total of 91 active lodging properties, Sixty-seven percent of the county’s lodging inventory was built prior to 1999. A majority of the lodging properties (54.1 percent) are considered older.
The months of February, March and April consistently have the highest occupancies of each year, according to the study. August and September are consistently the lowest occupancies each year.
Weekends including Friday and Saturday nights are consistently the busiest lodging period. Sundays and Mondays are the slowest.
The study indicated that business travelers account for almost one-fourth of the over-night stays in Polk. Group travel represents an overall average of 18.4 percent and convention and meeting travelers account for 15.2 percent of the overall market mix.