|By Steve Wartenberg, The Columbus
Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 13, 2012 --More people came to Columbus to attend meetings and stay in local hotels. But the increase in the occupancy rate reported for the third quarter might be difficult to repeat, given the opening of the Hilton Columbus Downtown, industry officials say.
The occupancy rate at Columbus-area hotels was 63.8 percent in the first three quarters of the year, up from 60.8 percent a year earlier, according to figures released yesterday by Experience Columbus and the Smith Travel Research Report.
Local observers say the recent opening of the 532-room Hilton hotel will help increase the number of visitors long term, but it could reduce the occupancy rate in the fourth quarter and in 2013.
"Next year will be a challenge," said Tim Dant, general manager of the Hyatt Regency. "We're adding significant (hotel-room) inventory with the Hilton."
These added rooms, he said, will help attract "these national associations we could never gain before, but they book three to five years out, and short term, we will have to really push" to fill rooms.
The pressure is also on Experience Columbus, the city's convention and visitors bureau.
"We've been pushing hard to book the larger, national groups that use multiple hotels," said Scott Peacock, spokesman for the organization. "If we don't, the Hilton, being the new hotel, could take business away from other hotels."
The recent bump in occupancy came courtesy of several large events held between July and September, including party-plan food firm Tastefully Simple's Party Palooza National Conference and the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships.
"There were 15,000 people here for volleyball and 3,500 with Tastefully Simple, and the four Ohio State home (football) games helped," Peacock said. "And July, August and September are three of the best months for leisure travel."
The average daily rate paid by guests was also up, from $81.34 to $85.44, according to the report.
All this added up to $25.1 million in hotel-bed taxes for the city, an
11 percent increase from the previous year's nine-month total.
"The numbers are very good and very encouraging for the entire Downtown Columbus hospitality community," Dant said.
The Hilton Columbus Downtown opened in October and was not included in the new report.
Experience Columbus does not select hotels for the groups that book meetings in Columbus.
"We get the dates they want to meet, and the room numbers they need, and get that information to all the hotels, who put in a bid," Peacock said. "It's up to that meeting planner to select the hotel or hotels they use."
(c)2012 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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