"We're getting just as many reservations now as we were before," said Eckersley, who runs Sunsplash Vacation Homes in Davenport.
Eckersley said he has noticed one difference, which he said could be the result of the rising gas prices and the pinch it's putting on people filling up their tanks.
"What is happening is where people used to come for seven nights," he said, "they are now coming for four. they are reducing the number of nights, but they are coming. this is good."
Good enough, he said, that Sunsplash recently did something it hasn't done in years, not since the recession set in early in 2008 and battered Central Florida's economy.
He's charging more for a vacation home.
That decision, Eckersley said, is a sign of confidence for an industry that responded to the drop in business in 2008 and 2009 by lowering room rates. it was a painful decision, but one the vacation home industry felt it needed to make to keep operating at a time when consumers were quickly cutting back on their discretionary spending, vacations included.
Eckersley isn't likely to be alone.
Lana Yoshii, a researcher with Smith Travel Research, completed a study called "The Lodging Industry Performance Overview," which examined where Central Florida's tourism and hospitality economy is headed this year.
Her study projected average daily rates in the Orlando hospitality industry are projected to rise by 3.3 percent in 2011, following several years of declines. Yoshii said she expects local hotels and vacation homes to start charging more as the economy improves.
"Consumers will be willing to pay a higher price," Yoshii said. "We're very, very optimistic about the Orlando market, which I can't say for every other market."
Yoshii said the hospitality industry is showing improved signs of life.
"The good news is that (nationally) everything was up except for room rates," she said. they remained flat last year.
But even with gas prices rising for months, Eckersley said the vacation homes that he manages in Northeast Polk County are doing well.
So far, he said, he has no reason to regret his decision to raise rates.
"June will be an absolute bumper month," he said. "My bookings look better this year. Reservation numbers are up for June from last year and for May as well. Whether the income is up yet, I'm not sure, because I basically check occupancy. But I know there's a lot of Europeans coming."
Central Florida's tourism economy showed signs of improvement last year.
The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opened at Universal Studios, and that drew large crowds last June.
This year the region's theme parks and hotels are reporting improving numbers.
And in October, Legoland Florida will open in Winter Haven as the newest addition to the area's local theme park industry.
Eckersley thinks the gas prices, while not helpful, will not deter people who are committed to taking a long overdue vacation here.
"My argument here is I don't think it does hurt us," he said. "If you go fill up your gas tank, and it's gone up 10 cents a gallon, that's $1.20 extra on 10 cents a gallon. I know it hurts when the pump suddenly registers $50, but you're talking about an additional $1.20 extra. we fill up our vehicles regardless of the price. So people make an adjustment. instead of going out to dinner every night, they may eat in their room."
And that, he added, is an advantage that vacation homes offer — the ability for people to do their own cooking in a kitchen that provides them with everything they need to make their own meals.
<a href="http://www.theledger.com/article/20110512/NEWS/110519812?Title=Vacation-Rental-Business-Picking-Up-in-Central-Floridatag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.theledger.com/article/20110512/NEWS/110519812?Title=Vacation-Rental-Business-Picking-Up-in-Central-FloridaThu, 12 May 2011 21:09:27 GMT 00:00">Vacation Rental Business Picking Up in Central Florida