|By Kevin Turner, The Florida Times-Union,
JacksonvilleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 28, 2010 - --Hotel occupancy losses in Jacksonville in January and February 2009 have been reversed by increases in February and March of this year, but those rates are still off the marks set for the same months in 2008.
Visit Jacksonville noted in a release Wednesday that according to Smith Travel Research data, Duval County occupancy rose above the 60 percent level for both months this year after falling below for the same two months in 2009. Occupancy was at 61.4 percent in February of this year, a 6 percent increase over 59.3 percent in the same month last year; the increase for March was to 63.3 percent this year from 58.9 percent last year, an increase of 9.1 percent.
But the county's occupancy rates haven't yet clawed back to 2008 levels, when occupancy in 70.8 percent in February and 67.4 percent in March, according to data from Smith Travel Research.
The 60 percent level is meaningful to hotel managers because hotels need to remain above that level to be considered profitable, according to the Visit Jacksonville release.
"The fact that hotel occupancy is reviving is great news for not only the hotels, but tourism- and non-tourism-related businesses in Jacksonville as well," Mya Carter, Visit Jacksonville interim president and CEO said. "When the hotels are full, we know that those visitors are spending money in our city's restaurants, retail, attractions and even gas stations and grocery stores while keeping Jacksonville residents employed."
Visit Jacksonville blamed 2009's drooping occupancy and per-night room charges on the global economic downturn. But while occupancy rates are rebounding, per-room charges are still on the decline, Visit Jacksonville noted. The average rate for hotels in Jacksonville in February and March was $70.50 -- 10.2 percent down from the same two months in 2009.
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