Hotel occupancy climbing back toward 2000 levels
By Jaime Levy
Occupancy rates at hotels in the Miami area are at their highest since Sept. 11, numbers from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau show.
Nearing 90% of the levels hit on the same dates a year ago, occupancy at hotels tracked by the bureau in Miami-Dade for the week ending Dec. 15 was at 89.4% of the numbers the industry posted in 2000, said Bill Talbert, convention bureau president and CEO.
He said the daily rate guests pay also pushed toward the 90% mark compared to a year ago. For the same week, it was at 86.2% of last year's average, or $83.34.
"This is the highest level we've been at since Sept. 11, year-on-year," Mr. Talbert said. "We met with 40 directors of sales from around the county. They're beginning to report that occupancy and average daily rates continue to climb, albeit slowly. And they report they feel pretty good about January, February and March."
Greater Miami's hotels have suffered significantly since the attacks and the subsequent flying fears and economic downturn felt across the nation. David Whitaker, convention bureau senior vice president for marketing and tourism, said the area's low, 35% of 2000's numbers, came the week ending Sept. 22. Before Thanksgiving, he said, average occupancy at best was 59% of last year's figures.
"There has been an increase in occupancy from the prior week for nine of the past 12 weeks," Mr. Whitaker said. "It has ebbs and flows, but it's a trend in the right direction."
Some local hotels confirm the upswing that the bureau's statistics show. Jeff Abbaticchio, spokesman for Loews Miami Beach Hotel, said the first half of January is also looking strong for the Collins Avenue hotel.
"We've been very, very busy," Mr. Abbaticchio said. "Group business has been driving the hotel. Now we're in the low 70s and mid-week we jump way up due to the Orange Bowl game."
Lisa Cole, spokeswoman for the Fontainebleau Hilton, said she anticipates a similar trend. "We are definitely improving and it's definitely picking up. We're going to be busy until the end of the year," she said.
Still, she said, "it's hard to recoup that loss. We're seeing more and more travelers. But it's still a little soft."