Hotels Show Slow Recovery From Sudden Dip In Tourism
By Jonathon Gutierrez
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Miami-Dade’s hotel market appears to be stabilizing after the dramatic drop in travel and tourism following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as occupancy rates remained at about 45% through last week, according to statistics from hospitality officials. The previous week’s rate was also 45%, an increase from the first week of October’s 35%.
The numbers have been slowly rising since mid-September, although this month is still well below last October’s average of 65%, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"We’re seeing a very slow increase in our occupancy rate," said Stuart Blumberg, president and CEO of the Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association. "I don’t want anybody thinking we’re going back to where we were before, because at this point it’s going in the right direction but it’s still slow."
Mr. Blumberg said the occupancy rates must be considered as an average because as large groups and conventions move in from week to week, it’s hard to tell if there has been actual improvement or if it’s just weekly fluctuations.
"There isn’t a consistent pattern across the board because everyone has a different set of variables," he said. "It may be busy in one area and the reverse the following week. At two hotels on the beach last week we had major weddings, but how many times can you get married?"
While average occupancy rates appear to be rising, not all hotels are improving equally, said David Whitaker, senior vice president of marketing and tourism at the convention bureau.
"Here in Miami, we have some hotels that are very dependent on a piece of the market, such as European tour groups, South American tourists or if they’re set up to be a major convention center," said Mr. Whitaker. "All those variables are important and come into play during the year. What Sept. 11 did was clear the board."
Certain markets, such as business meetings, have rebounded faster than others, he said. Leisure travel in particular has remained slow.
"We all kind of want a barometer and occupancy rates are one of the those barometers, but on a local level, this is going to have a financial effect depending on the market the hotel was working with," Mr. Whitaker said. "Clearly in the marketplace, some hotels are more easy to adapt than others."
The latest nationwide statistics, compiled by Smith Travel Research, gathered through the first week of October, placed the average US hotel occupancy rate at 65%. During the same week, Miami averaged 35%.
"It’s getting better day by day, compared to what it has been for the first three weeks after the attacks," said Rachelle Johnston, research analyst for Smith. "But the luxury and upscale hotels are still hurting more than the mid-scale and economy levels."