|By Wayne Heilman, The Gazette, Colorado
Springs, Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 22, 2010--Hotel occupancy rates in Colorado Springs hit the lowest level on record last year for a second consecutive year, slammed by a deep recession and a moribund corporate meeting market.
The occupancy rate for local hotels fell last year to 56.6 percent, the lowest rate recorded for Colorado Springs since publication of the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report, which is produced for the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, began in 1991. The average room rate paid by guests last year fell 4.7 percentÂ— the first annual decline since 2003 and the largest drop in the report's history Â— to $84.84. That's the lowest local average rate since 2006.
"Last year was the worst period in the meeting industry in 30 years because corporations were afraid to go to conventions as a result of all the publicity about bailout money being spent (on meetings) in Las Vegas and Orlando," Terry Sullivan, CEO of Experience Colorado Springs, the city's convention and visitors bureau, said Thursday. "Let's hope this is the bottom and the (tourism) industry, which is an important part of our economy, will start coming back soon."
December was the worst month for the Springs in the history of the report Â— the occupancy rate fell to 33.6 percent from 33.8 percent a year earlier, and the average room rate declined nearly 8 percent during the same period to $72.77, the lowest monthly average since March 2006. Even with a poor December, though, the travel industry showed signs of improvement in the second half of the year with the occupancy rate increasing in three of the six months.
"The rate of decline statewide seems to be slowing and I'm starting to see some stability in the market," said Robert Benton, a Parker-based hotel industry consultant who compiles the report. "We could see improvement next year. The occupancy rate should start to recover, though I would expect the average room rate to continue to decline for several more months. Colorado Springs will probably recover more slowly due to the opening of a major new hotel."
Missouri developer John Q. Hammons hopes to soon obtain a $75 million loan, which he'll use to complete a 300-room Renaissance Hotel under construction off InterQuest Parkway on the city's far north side. He said in December that he hopes to open the hotel in June.
Colorado Springs fared better than the rest of the state. The statewide hotel occupancy rate declined to 54.9 percent in 2009 from 61.2 percent in 2008, while the average room fell 8.4 percent to $118.92. Hotels in the Denver area and the state's ski resorts were hit especially hard with the occupancy rate in Denver hotels dropping to 59 percent last year from 65 percent in 2008 and the occupancy rate in ski resort hotels declining to 43 percent in 2009 from 50.6 percent in 2008. The average room rate for Denver and resort hotels both fell more than 9 percent during the same period.
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