|By Sara K. Clarke, Orlando
SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 20, 2012--Hotels in the Orlando area had a stronger August than they did a year ago, wrapping up the peak, summer tourist season on a positive note.
Area hotels filled 63.3 percent of their rooms during the month, up from 60.2 percent in August 2011. And the average price of a room climbed 3 percent from a year earlier to $83.43, as more-robust demand pushed up rates.
The data, released Wednesday by the hotel-tracking company Smith Travel Research, does not include Walt Disney World hotels.
The relatively strong August followed a stable July, in which hotels filled a slightly smaller percentage of their rooms compared with a year earlier but managed to push average rates up by 4.2 percent. The industry kicked off the summer with a strong June, during which occupancy and prices both grew.
Feedback from hoteliers about the 90-day summer period has been "extremely positive," said Richard Maladecki, president and chief executive officer of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.
"It was a very successful summer season for Central Florida," he said.
Low-priced hotels, in the budget and economy segments, reported the largest percentage gains during August, primarily a time for leisure travelers in Orlando. Still, even the market's luxury hotels saw year-over-year growth, a sign that travelers of all kinds are returning in greater numbers.
At the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, several corporate groups gave a boost to business this summer. The hotel's room and occupancy rates in August were both ahead of last year's, said Jean Spaulding, director of sales and marketing, and "the pace for September is looking good."
Geographically, the West Kissimmee area had the strongest growth during August. Hotels in the Lake Buena Vista area, which filled an average of 69.6 percent of their rooms, had the highest average occupancy rate of any of the submarkets surveyed by Smith Travel, though their August figure was down slightly from a year ago.
Through the first eight months of the year, Orlando's hotel industry is well ahead of last year's performance. Revenue per available room, a key industry measure, is up 6 percent compared with the same period in 2011. All of the area's geographic submarkets -- from North Orlando to West Kissimmee -- have improved on last year's results through August.
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