|By Tom Stieghorst, South Florida
Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Jan. 18, 2007 --Looking for a hotel room for Super Bowl weekend? They're still available, but the prices are heart-stopping.
A room at the Hampton Inn in Hallandale Beach will set you back about $2,400. That's a rate of $599 a night for a minimum of four nights, a requirement to reserve the room.
Earlier this month, the same room went for between $179 and $229. David Berger, general manager of the 151-room hotel on Federal Highway, makes no apologies.
"It's just the demand in the market," he said.
Super Bowl weekend will attract about 125,000 visitors from out of town, organizers predict. They are the kind of visitors who can pay $1,000 for a ticket to the game. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have about 90,000 hotel rooms.
With that mismatch between supply and demand, it's a seller's market for lodging.
Most hotels in Broward and Palm Beach counties are increasing prices for the weekend by 25 percent to 100 percent over standard rates. At Fort Lauderdale's Lago Mar Resort & Club, suites that sell for $365 a night in mid-January are averaging $450 for Super Bowl, owner Walter Banks said.
In Boca Raton, the Renaissance Hotel is asking its standard $449 rate but with a four-night minimum. It will re-evaluate after this weekend, when the teams heading to the big game will be decided.
"It's kind of a wait-and-see about which teams are going to be in the game," Renaissance General Manager Tom Mulroy said.
Many top hotels attract business guests who can expense the cost. "It's a corporate event, not a fan event," said Bryan DeCort, general manager of the Marriott Hollywood Beach hotel, which is seeking $609 a night for its few available rooms.
DeCort said he opened a few rooms for sale earlier this week by easing the minimum stay rules. Guests can now stay for one night the Thursday night before the game, stay for three nights if they check in Friday, or two nights if they check in Saturday or Sunday.
DeCort charged an average of $289 a night in the first two weeks of January.
Many hotels hold back a few rooms until the last two weeks before the game. Inventory also changes as brokers turn back rooms they have reserved but haven't sold by a certain date.
"Availability is hit and miss," said James Angel, marketing director at The Atlantic in Fort Lauderdale, which surveyed some competitors this week before removing Thursday from its four-night minimum stay requirement.
The 106-room beachfront condo hotel is seeking a $799 minimum rate for the Feb. 2-4 weekend. The rate for Thursday night dropped to $609. A typical charge for a standard room at The Atlantic this winter is $489 to $509, Angel said.
Price-gouging in the 1990s led the National Football League to restrict rates on the 17,000 rooms that are pledged to the league for teams, sponsors and VIPs. Hotels must use their top rate for group business, plus a 10 percent premium.
For rooms outside the block there is no maximum rate under law, said Thomas Butler, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Hotel and Restaurants. But hotels must file their rates with the state five days before they become effective, and post them in rooms.
Exceeding the posted rate is a second-degree misdemeanor, and could result in fines or license suspensions, Butler said.
Many rooms for Super Bowl weekend are controlled by outside brokers, making them even more expensive. A room at The Atlantic starts at $999 a night for the Super Bowl through superbowl-rooms.com, a Fort Pierce events brokerage.
Alan Bachand, who runs the site, said he's getting more calls than for last year's Super Bowl in Detroit. "This one, the demand is pretty high, especially on the high end," he said.
Staff Researcher William Lucey contributed to this report. Tom Stieghorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-810-5008.
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