|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 21, 2010--Orlando-area hotels continued their rebound last month, with double-digit percentage gains in occupancy and stable room rates compared with a year ago.
Hotels in the Orlando area filled 59 percent of their rooms in November, a 13.5 percent improvement compared with November 2009 and the best showing for the month since 2007, as the nation was headed into a record-long recession.
The market's average daily room rate was up 1 percent from a year earlier, to about $91, according to data released by Smith Travel Research. Revenue per available room, a key industry measure, rose 14.7 percent from a year ago.
"We had a really good November," said Scott Tripoli, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal. "We're starting to see some nice trends."
Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter continued to fuel business at nearby hotels, Tripoli said. The International Drive corridor also got a boost from the region's convention trade last month, including a large expo staged by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.
Submarkets across the area, from north and downtown Orlando to I-Drive, posted double-digit gains in their average occupancy rates for the month. The exception was the west Kissimmee submarket, where the occupancy rate rose just 1.7 percent and little more than one-third of the rooms were filled on an average night.
In downtown Orlando, year-end corporate meetings helped business at the Crowne Plaza, according to General Manager Duane Winjum. A strong weekend from the annual Florida Classic football game at the Citrus Bowl added room nights, as well. "We essentially sold out Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from that event," Winjum said.
The Orlando market outpaced the nation as a whole in terms of occupancy gains but fell behind in terms of average-price gains, according to the Smith Travel data, which does not include Walt Disney World hotels.
Scott Smith, a lodging instructor at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said the latest report indicates the area's hotels are learning to play with the poor economic cards that they have been dealt.
"Everyone knows we're in a tough economy right now. They've kind of found those price points where it works well for them and they can fill those rooms," he said. "I wouldn't necessarily say they're being profitable. They've stopped hemorrhaging -- they're learning to adjust."
Sara K. Clarke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5664.
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