|By Sara K. Clarke, Orlando
SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 20, 2012--Orlando hotels couldn't hold the line on price last month, with the International Drive area and the luxury category reporting some of the sharpest declines.
Hotels in the area filled 63.6 percent of their rooms on an average night in November, compared with 63.7 percent in November 2011, according to the survey firm Smith Travel Research. And average occupancy remained higher than it had been five years ago, before the 2007-2009 recession.
But room rates took a hit last month: The average daily price of a room in the local market -- $91.01 -- was down 2 percent last month from November 2011 and is still far from returning to pre-recession levels, according to the Smith Travel data.
The local industry's performance in recent months has been mixed. In September, hoteliers filled a smaller percentage of their rooms and charged lower average prices than they had a year earlier, while in October they reported modest growth.
Geographically, the International Drive area fared the worst in November when compared with a year earlier: Average occupancy fell to 63.2 percent from 65.1 percent a year ago, while the average price fell more than 5 percent.
In terms of category, there were signs of erosion in high-end travel, with luxury hotels reporting lower average occupancy and a 3 percent drop in average price.
Ed Sills, director of sales for the Hilton Garden Inn at SeaWorld, said one major difference this year was the absence of the American Heart Association's annual convention, which settled into the Orange County Convention Center for four days in November 2011.
"That drove a lot of room nights" that weren't around again this year, he said.
Sills said this year's Thanksgiving period was " a little slow" for his hotel, which affected his room rates. December, however, with its yearend holidays and the Capital One and Russell Athletic college-football bowl games, is looking better than expected, he said.
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