|By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa,
Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 25, 2008 - Hotels around the Valley were much emptier than usual last month, according to a national industry expert.
"June was rather horrific," said Jan Freitag of Tennessee based Smith Travel Research, which collects and analyzes hotel statistics nationwide.
Business was down nationwide for the lodging industry in June, but not nearly as much as in the Phoenix area.
Valley hotels filled about 13 percent fewer rooms with paying guests in June than in June 2007. They charged the guests who did show up 1.6 percent more than a year earlier. But that wasn't nearly enough to make up the difference.
Revenue per available room, which combines the impact of room prices and number of room nights sold, was also down double digits in the Valley.
For the rest of the country, June hotel room occupancy was down 4.5 percent, room rates were up 2.1 percent and revenue per available room fell a slight but still worrisome 2.1 percent.
People who typically come from nearby states to luxuriate in Scottsdale resorts during the summer didn't come in the same numbers this year, said Dave Akin, director of sales and marketing for the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale.
Hoteliers tried to take up the slack by luring Valley residents to hometown resorts instead of making their summer pilgrimages to the beach, but the local folks didn't bite in big enough numbers to fill the empty rooms, Akin said.
"There are definitely less people in town this summer," said Tom Silverman, general manager of the Chaparral Suites Resort in Scottsdale. "I blame it on the economy." Laura McMurchie, spokeswoman for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the situation is troubling but not dire.
"At the end of the day, nobody likes to see the numbers go down, but it's not putting people in panic mode," McMurchie said. "But it is going to be tough moving forward." And overall, Scottsdale inns are doing a little better than the rest of the Valley, she said.
For the six months from January through June, Valley hotel occupancy was down 8.8 percent, and revenue per available rooms was down 3.6 percent. In Scottsdale, occupancy was down 4.5 percent and revenue down 1.4 percent, McMurchie said.
The big worry is whether the slump will extend from the slow summer season through the winter -- the big-profit months for local hotels and resorts.
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