Hotels continue setting records for occupancy, rates
By Claudio Mendonça
Coming off their best summer ever, Miami-Dade hotels continue to shatter occupancy and rate marks.
In September, a month when county hotels historically are at half-capacity, occupancy hit 64.4%, up 22.6% from last year, according to Smith Travel Research. A year ago, hotels were at 49.1% occupancy and two years ago at 52.1%, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Room rates were also up markedly. In September, nightly rates averaged $106 countywide, far better than last year's $89.02 and 2003's $86.59.
"This success is a combination of good hotel stock, repeat business and friendly customer service," said Miami Beach tourism and convention director Michael Aller. "We are doing things correctly, and as a result, tourists love being here."
"There are a lot of factors for the increase in rates," said Grisette Marcos, executive director of the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority. "For years we have been trying to bridge this seasonal gap, and we are doing a fairly good job."
Ms. Marcos credits the increase to exposure provided by the "MTV Video Music Awards" show in late August and the 14,000 people who attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference. She said the extension of Miami Restaurant Month into September also helped put the county in the national spotlight with articles in the New York Times.
Florida's occupancy rate in September plunged 11% to 57.2%. Ironically, the main reason hotel occupancy was down, according to Smith Travel, was the absence of hurricanes in the state. Last year, Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne filled hotels around the state with guests fleeing major cities along the coast.
"These two hurricanes caused people to flee from their homes and check in to inland hotels as shelters. As a result, it raised last year's occupancy rate of hotels around the state," said Jan Freitag, vice president of Tennessee-based Smith Travel Research.
The expectation is that travelers will continue to flock to Miami hotels, especially during October and early November, Mr. Freitag said.
"We are expecting a strong meeting season," he said. "During the fall, there are major trade association shows. In the past, there was a softening during this time of the year. But it changed last year with business travel bouncing back."