|By Mary Ann Milbourn, The Orange County
RegisterMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 20, 2013--Orange County's luxury hotels rebounded last year with the average room over $200 costing $295.86 a night -- a 7.8 percent increase over 2011, reports PKF Consulting, a hotel research and consulting firm.
Although luxury hotels gained the most in 2012, room rates across the county saw a solid recovery, rising 5.4 percent. The average room cost $150.20, up from $142.45 in 2011.
Average occupancy countywide was 75 percent, up from 72.8 percent in 2011.
"Disney's opening of Cars Land in Anaheim last year not only helped Anaheim but Irvine and the rest of Orange County," said Bruce Baltin, a PKF senior vice president.
Hotels overall struggled through the recession as travelers cut back on spending. The luxury sector, however, suffered even greater losses after many companies cut expenses and canceled corporate conferences en masse to eliminate any hint of undue spending after the Wall Street meltdown.
AIG American General, a subsidiary of insurance giant AIG, became the poster child for corporate excess when the company spent more than $434,000 on a business conference at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point in 2008. That was just two weeks after the parent company received an $85 billion bailout from the U.S. government.
Within a year, the St. Regis had defaulted on its loans and Citibank foreclosed on the hotel. Washington Holdings bought control of the resort in 2010.
"The high-end hotels were really hit by a combination of the economy and the 'AIG effect,' of which Orange County was the epicenter," Baltin said.
Last year, luxury hotels were back in demand, especially at year's end. In December, rooms costing more than $200 averaged $434.41 a night, up 10.9 percent over December 2011.
Baltin attributes the bounceback in prices to an improved economy and a lack of new hotel rooms. Luxury hotel occupancy was 76.5 percent last year, up from 71.9 percent in 2011.
He said the West Coast also is benefiting from an increase in international visitors from China, other Asian countries and Australia.
Newport Beach was the biggest beneficiary of the price hikes last year in percentage terms, with room rates averaging $206.51 a night, up 8.4 percent from 2011. The airport area saw the smallest percentage increase in room rates. They rose 1.5 percent to an average $111.67
Revenue per available room, a measure of rates and occupancy, also increased last year to an average $112.78, up 8.8 percent.
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