Hoteliers forecast stronger winter despite economy, war threat
By Sherri C. Ranta
Despite the still-sluggish economy and threat of war with Iraq, Greater Miami's hoteliers are forecasting a stronger winter - the industry's bread-and-butter season - this year than last year, said Stuart Blumberg, president/CEO, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.
"In spite of the potential to go to war and in spite of the economy, I still believe the season will be better this year than last year," he said.
Miami's most profitable lodging season runs from about Thanksgiving to March.
Winter lodging statistics for Miami-Dade County were down dramatically last year as the impact of the terrorists' attacks on the World Trade Center rippled through the country, briefly shutting down airports but discouraging business and leisure travel at the same the country was fighting a recession.
The lodging industry is optimistic about the upcoming season, he said, despite a similar situation 10 years ago when the Persian Gulf War stopped people from traveling to Miami for the winter.
Year-to-date lodging statistics for the county continue to be down compared to the first nine months of 2001 - before the events of 9/11, according to figures from Smith Travel Research, a Tennessee-based industry research and tracking group.
Miami-Dade County occupancy stand at 62.7% for the first nine months of this year, down 8.1% from last year. Nationwide, occupancy is about 61%. Room rates for Miami-Dade averaged about $102.34, down about 6.6% from the same period for 2001.
Demand for hotel room in the county is down 8.7% for the first nine months of this year from the same period last year. Room revenue is down 14.7% for the first nine months from the same period last year.
Major metropolitan markets like Miami continue to be hardest hit, said Brad Garner, Smith's director of research.
Considered a "fly-in" market, Miami is seeing its demand slide as business and leisure travelers - primarily international - fly less. Hoteliers have tried to attract customers by cutting room rates, leading to a further dip in average rates and room revenues.
Nationwide, Mr. Garner said, the middle markets - those perceived as safe and within driving distance, such as Nashville, TN, are doing better.
The lodging industry suffered two back-to-back blows last year, Mr. Garner said. The economy became sluggish before 9/11, then the impact and consequences of 9/11 further impacted the industry.