Hotel PRINT LEDE.JPG (copy)

Keith McClough (right) helps load up a guest's car at Hotel Bennett in downtown Charleston. So far this year, 750 rooms and suites have been added to the area's lodging inventory, including 179 at the Hotel Bennett. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

So far this year, local hotels have sold more than 1.6 million room nights, topping the first four months of 2018 by 3 percent, according to figures from the College of Charleston

As nights sold climb, the region has also seen occupancy rates that are slightly lower than last year's. In April, almost 87 percent of guest rooms were filled, but that high mark was about 3 percent below the occupancy during the same period in 2018. 

For the first four months of 2019, occupancy rates were down about 1.5 percent year-over-year. 

The average daily rate, or the money charged per occupied room, also dipped below what was seen at this time last year, by about 2.2 percent for January through April. 

The declines show that the market is absorbing the new supply, said Daniel Guttentag, director of the college's Office of Tourism Analysis.

"Those slight dips are, from a broader perspective, very small," Guttentag said. "We're in a really good spot."

The figures are reflective of what the area saw during 2018 overall. Last year, occupancy was down almost 2 percent compared to 2017, but more room nights than ever — 4.62 million — were sold during the year. 

Seeing that increase in room nights, Guttentag said, also means more visitors, and more visitors means more people spending money on dining, shopping, attractions and other activities. 

Before the annual economic impact figures are released, the count of room nights sold compared to the year before is often the best measure of whether one year will outpace the other. 

The area's hotel inventory has also grown by 750 rooms in the first four months of 2019, or more than 100 rooms more than the region added all of last year.

The beginning of this year was marked by the grand opening of one of the peninsula's largest hotels, the 179-room Hotel Bennett. No other high-profile hotel openings have been announced for 2019. 

Charleston Waterfront Hotel_Final_Deferred

The plans for a full-service hotel near Charleston's Waterfront Park have yet to receive final approval from the Board of Architectural Review. Provided/McMillan Pazdan Smith Architects. 

A little longer

Construction on the planned full-service hotel near Charleston's Waterfront Park won't be starting just yet.

The designs still have to clear the last hurdle from the city's Board of Architectural Review, which deferred its approval last week because it wants the developer and architects to take another look at their building materials. 

The BAR granted its second of three approvals in March. 

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.

The property is being developed by the Los Angeles-based firm Lowe on the former site of the S.C. Port Authority's headquarters on Concord Street. Charleston architecture firm McMillan Pazdan Smith designed the building. 

The 225-room lodging would also include some areas that would be accessible to the public, such as ground floor retail shops, a cafe and an extension to the pedestrian path along Charleston Harbor

The hotel plan was also recently evaluated by the city's Technical Review Committee. According to the group's meeting results, only "minor comments" were given.

Carnival Sunshine Grand Cayman 2013 (copy)

Carnival Cruise Line is the presenting sponsor of the Charleston Cruise and Travel Show, a new event from a travel agency firm that's moving into the area. Danny Lehman/Provided

Cruising in

A travel agency franchise is hosting its first Charleston Cruise and Travel Show next weekend as part of its push to expand its footprint in South Carolina. 

Earlier this month, Dream Vacations, a Fort Lauderdale-based vacation-planning firm, announced that it was looking for more franchisees in the Palmetto State. At the show, company representatives will be providing information on how to own a home-based travel agency with the company.

Carnival Cruise Line, which recently started docking its Sunshine ship in Charleston, is the presenting sponsor of the show. About 20 other vacation suppliers will have exhibits, including Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. The event's agenda includes presentations from the participating cruise lines, food samples and demonstrations on how to make the towel animals. 

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 1 at the Charleston Marriott on Lockwood Boulevard. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children 12 and under. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter, which is published twice a week. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.