Weather doesn't seem to hurt Heritage hospitality business

bheffernan@islandpacket.comApril 22, 2013 

Pete Fields, an employee of Coastal Connections based in Bluffton, helps to breakdown the bleachers at the 18th hole on Monday afternoon at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

The RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing was buffeted by windy weather and didn't sell out this year, but Hilton Head Island's annual PGA Tour event still managed to boost business, according to several restaurant and resort managers.

The weekend capped a three-week stretch of high occupancy at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, according to the resort's sales director, Teresa Manzolillo. Previous weeks brought in guests for Easter and college and high school spring breaks, she said.

"Our hotel was sold out for 10 days straight, and then we have a little break, then Heritage came up," Manzolillo said.

The resort's weekend occupancy spiked this year -- rooms were 98 percent full on Friday and sold out Saturday. They sold at an average rate of $187 per room, according to Manzolillo. That's better than Heritage weekend last year, although 2012 had better weekday occupancy, when Easter fell the Sunday before the tournament.

Islandwide occupancy rates during Heritage week were not immediately available from the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, which keeps track of such data. Charlie Clark, chamber spokeswoman, said the data would not likely be available until the end of the month.

Attendance was about the same as last year, according to tournament ticket manager Chris Tobia, as more than 100,000 people came out to Harbour Town Golf Links to watch the action.

The crowds -- and the business they bring -- often are affected by where the Heritage falls on the calendar.

Next year's Heritage will be April 14 to 20, meaning the tournament's final round will be on Easter. Manzolillo says that probably means a sellout at the resort that week, but it also could mean lower occupancy in weeks before and after the tournament.

Villa rentals at Resort Rentals of Hilton Head Island also were up this year, according to vice president of marketing Bill Haley. He said all of the rental company's 73 properties in Sea Pines were rented, and occupancy was higher than 70 percent islandwide.

"It's been a big run for us these three weeks," Haley said.

When it was too cool, damp or windy for spectators to stay on the course, many flocked indoors for shelter and sustenance. The weather was a boon for business at Truffles Cafe in Sea Pines Center, manager Paul Paulauskas said.

"When it rained, everybody came here," he said, adding that he thought the overcast skies helped boost the daily lunch crowds.

"If it's not sunny out, people tend to come indoors," Paulauskas said.

After dusk, patrons came out for post-round drinks, but largely stayed inside and didn't venture out to the patios, said Scott Gruber, manager of Reilley's Grill and Bar near Sea Pines Circle.

The bar had to cancel the live music planned outside on Friday because of the rain, but business was still healthy, Gruber said.

"When the weather is nice, it really showcases what Hilton Head can offer to the PGA Tour and people in general," he said. "But even with the bad weather, people still come down and enjoy the tournament and the night life that goes with it."

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

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