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Super Bowl's Boost to Dallas-Fort Worth
 Area Hotels May Fade Fast


By Karen Robinson-Jacobs, The Dallas Morning NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 10, 2010 - Early next year, an estimated 150,000 Super Bowl spenders will stream into North Texas looking for a place to bunk.
 
For local hoteliers, still shaking off the impact of the Great Recession, occupancy rates will swell to near capacity and room rates will climb enough to bring an estimated $79.3 million into the four-county region.  But there is little hope the big game on Feb. 6 will result in a long-term impact on hotel rates, revenues or even occupancy, experts say.
 
A year after the Super Bowl bonanza, occupancy and room rates generally return to the same levels as they were before the game's media blitz, and in some cases worse, figures from past host cities show.

That means operators can enjoy the fun while it lasts, but shouldn't expect the Super Bowl boost to last.

"What they'll see is a big bump – particularly in room rate and revenue – for a month," said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of Smith Travel Research. "After that, it's gone. What's the residual effect? Are people more likely to come back? Good question."

Last year, occupancy rates in the Dallas area (not counting Arlington and Fort Worth) dropped to 51.2 percent, and the average room rate fell 8.5 percent to $86.20, according to Smith Travel.

Clearly, the Super Bowl will bump up those figures. Some rooms booked by the National Football League can fetch prices close to $350 a night.

During four of the last six Super Bowl weekends, host city occupancy rates ranged from 87 percent to 97 percent, according to Smith Travel.

When Houston hosted the 2004 Super Bowl, its weekend occupancy rate jumped to about 90 percent, from 45 percent in 2003, according to Smith Travel.

"The operators think, 'I'm going to capitalize like crazy while it's here,' " Bowers said.

Each year, the largest single block of rooms goes to the NFL.

In May 2007, when North Texas was awarded the bid to host Super Bowl XLV, the package deal included an agreement to set aside at least 21,000 rooms for groups including players and their families, sponsors, NFL staffers, media and other teams not taking the field.

The NFL is to decide by Sept. 1 how many of those rooms it will need. But the figure now looks closer to 16,000 rooms, said Frank Supovitz, senior vice president for events with the NFL.

After Sept. 1, rooms not needed by the NFL and the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee go on the open market, which already is partly closed off.

An Internet check of some of the region's swankiest properties, including the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas and the Gaylord Texan, found no room at the inn.

Most of the Four Seasons' rooms are committed to the NFL, said Lance Peters, sales and marketing director. Even if some of the resort's 431 rooms eventually are released by the NFL, "the pressure for rooms from people who are not associated with the NFL is enormous," Peters said.  The hotel will keep a waiting list but Peters thinks the league will claim most of his spots.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Marriott Hotel & Golf Club had a concierge-level room available on the Friday before the game – prepaid, nonrefundable – for $399 a night. (The rate drops to $199 a night a week later. It was $445 a night in 2007, a spokesman said.)

By virtue of Cowboys Stadium's cavernous capacity, next year's Super Bowl is expected to draw at least 93,000 ticketed fans. That's a third more than the typical in-stadium attendance of about 70,000.

And that means more heads in beds locally, since most ticketed fans also stay in hotels, Supovitz said.

"There are going to be more people staying in hotel rooms in North Texas than in Florida [this year] by virtue of the fact that 20,000 more people are ticketed," he said.

Fans can thank the NFL for helping to keep rates in D-FW's 100,000 rooms from going through the roof.  For rooms set aside for the NFL, hotels agreed to a negotiated rate based on the best group rate charged in 2007. That rate was adjusted for inflation and boosted by a 10 percent premium to get to the Super Bowl rate, which will vary by hotel.

At least 150 local hotels have signed anti-gouging pacts in which they agreed to a similar pricing policy, according to the local host committee. The pact is designed to help fans but also can help hotel operators, said Tara Green, vice president and chief operating officer for the host committee.

"Value equals volume," Green said. Hotel operators "need to price themselves accordingly. People will drive farther to get a better deal."

Suzi Statham, general manager of La Quinta Inns & Suites in Allen, thinks she'll be sold out come game day, even though her hotel is more than 40 miles from the stadium's Arlington home.

"Some people will want to stay as far away from all that traffic as they can," she said.

While downtown hotels regularly sell out for conventions, the Super Bowl can swell a hotel's coffers even more than a large convention, said Ed Netzhammer, regional vice president of Irving-based Omni Hotels and general manager of the 23-story Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel under construction in downtown Dallas.

"You get four days and [it] maximizes all of your other opportunities to make money," he said. For example, if a hotel is hosting a sponsor, the catering staff will be busy.

But not even the Super Bowl influx can overcome longer-term economic forces. While Houston's Super Bowl weekend occupancy rate jumped to about 90 percent in 2004, it was 61.3 percent for February that year, virtually unchanged from the previous and following Februarys, according to Smith Travel.

"We don't want anyone to think this is going to cure all of your 2008 recession woes," said the host committee's Green.

Netzhammer, who is in his ninth year working hospitality in a Super Bowl city, points to San Diego as a potential model for Dallas.
"That market really took off as a leisure destination after the 1998 Super Bowl," he said. "We have big hopes that the weather cooperates and that Dallas shows well to the rest of the country."

"Those people, when they come and have a great time, it tends to grow the pull and momentum for more leisure travel to come to the city," he added. "It tends to have a longer-term effect."Without question, hotels closest to downtown Dallas will be some of the biggest Super Bowl winners. Here are highlights:

• Hilton Anatole hotel, with 1,606 guest rooms, is the NFL headquarters hotel and is sold out.
• Texas' largest hotel, the Sheraton Dallas, will host the media and sponsors in 1,780 of its 1,840 rooms.
• For the first time in the NFL's memory, the same brand will host both Super Bowl teams.  The Omni Mandalay Hotel in Las Colinas, with 420 rooms, will be home to the NFC champions. The Omni Fort Worth will house the AFC champs. All of the Fort Worth hotel's 614 rooms are committed to the NFL that Thursday through Monday.

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Dallas Morning News

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