|By Andrew Edwards, Inland Valley Daily
Bulletin, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 13, 2011--ONTARIO -- Local hoteliers may be able to look forward to a healthier business climate next year, but the continuing decrease of passenger traffic at L.A./Ontario International Airport remains a pressing concern as the hospitality industry recovers from the past recession.
"The airport is a huge concern for our industry, and not just hotels, but restaurants, malls, gas stations," said Amy Delgadillo, general manager of Ayres Hotel & Suites, Ontario Convention Center.
Lately, passenger traffic through Ontario has decreased while Los Angeles International Airport has gotten busier.
Through September, the more than 3.4 million passengers who flew in and out of ONT represented a 4.68 percent decline in traffic when compared to the same nine months in 2010.
Meanwhile, passenger traffic at LAX climbed 5.64 percent to more than 46.8 million passengers.
Los Angeles World Airports manages both airports. The agency has responded to the downward trend in flights at ONT by lowering landing fees and terminal rents this year in a reversal of fee hikes that airport leaders approved during 2008 and 2009, when the economy was weaker than at present.
Several Ontario area public officials and business leaders have pushed for ONT to be removed from Los Angeles World Airports' control and placed in the care of Inland Empire authorities.
The latest movement approaching that direction took place earlier this month. Los Angeles Councilman
Tony Cardenas requested a study to determine whether Van Nuys Airport, also part of Los Angeles World Airports, should have its own management board.
Van Nuys and ONT currently share a manager.
Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner, a proponent of local control of ONT, has welcomed Cardenas' idea as a potential step closer to his own goals.
Bob Brown, CEO of the Ontario Convention Center & Visitors Bureau, agrees with Wapner.
"I think it (Cardenas' proposal) was a good start," Brown said.
"I think what's ultimately going to benefit us in the region is having an airport authority that's locally based, and having the counties and surrounding cities controlling the airport," he added.
Brown insisted that local control of ONT would speed its recovery. He said the Embassy Suites Ontario Airport Hotel, which opened in June, would be much more busier if ONT was a more attractive and less expensive airport.
Embassy Suites Ontario Airport general manager Brad Wymer did not address the politics surrounding ONT's traffic declines, but acknowledged his concern.
"With our situation here, being brand new, we don't have history to go on. But at the same time, seeing flights going down at the airport doesn't bode well for us," he said."
"We've ramped up fairly well with an Embassy product, but maybe not as fast as we liked," Wymer added.
New projections from PKF Consulting, USA present a cautiously optimistic picture for Southern California hoteliers.
PKF, which specializes in studies of the hospitality business, expects that rising corporate profits, international travel, income growth among professionals and limited supply will make 2012 a healthy year for Southern California hoteliers.
In Los Angeles County, PKF expects occupancy rates to grow from 75.5 percent at the end of this year to 76.9 percent by the end of 2012.
The consulting firm projects Los Angeles County average daily rates to climb from roughly $165 to $174.
PKF also projects improvement for the Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga market, which is not expected to be quite as robust.
Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga occupancies are set to improve from 63.9 percent to 65.3 percent by 2012's end.
Average room rates will increase from about $84 to roughly $86, in PKF's assessment.
In 2007, before the most recent recession, Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga hotels enjoyed 74.9 percent occupancy rates and could charge an average of $101 for a night's stay.
At Ayres, Delgadillo said she has seen some improvements this year, but could not say all hoteliers are benefiting from rising activity.
Instead, the recovery has been somewhat spotty, with some in the hospitality business being able to pick up bits and pieces of new commerce.
"It's probably going to take a few years, but if we get a little better every year, that's all we can do," Delgadillo said.
Reach Andrew via email, call him at 909-483-8550, or find him on Twitter @InlandBizz.
(c)2011 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)
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