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New York City's Hotel Rates Up Nearly 8% in September, 2004;
Demand Soars, Expecting 82% Occupancy for the Year
By Ralph R. Ortega, Daily News, New York
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Nov. 8, 2004 - Holiday guests at New York's premier hotels may think the Grinch is running the show, with sky-high rates setting some tourists back a whopping $595 a night.

As demand for rooms soars, New York hotel prices have climbed for the first time since the 2001 terror attacks, socking visitors an average of $222 a night in September.

That's $19 more than last year's average bill -- and far ahead of rate increases logged in other big cities, according to today's Crain's New York Business.

Still, it may seem like chump change to visitors to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, which is charging a jumbo rate of $499 a night for Thanksgiving and the first two weeks of December.

"It's outrageous!" said Bastel Zamani, 40, of Irvine, Calif., who forked over more than $1,000 yesterday for three nights at the Marriott.

New York's rates rose nearly 8 percent in September, almost double the increase seen in Los Angeles, and far outpacing Chicago's 1 percent hike.

A drop in the number of available rooms in New York -- from the conversion of hotels into hot-selling apartments -- has helped to fuel the double-digit dollar increase.

The Marquis has been one of the most aggressive about upping its holiday rates, charging $70 more than last year, according to Crain's.

That's not to say you can't pay more.

At the posh Peninsula New York on Fifth Ave., which has boosted prices by $30, rooms start at $595.

Even the management at 70 Park Ave. believes it can build clientele charging a nightly rate of $325 and up, $30 more than any of its Murray Hill rivals.

So far, it looks as though guests are not exactly being scared away.

"It was crowded here. So, I guess people are traveling," said Zamani, who is planning a return visit next month.

Hotel lodging rates throughout the city are expected to finish the year 82 percent full, just 2 percent shy of the 2000 peak, according to PKF Consulting, which tracks hotel data.

And with record numbers of tourists and business travelers expected to continue pouring into New York, hotel managers see the holidays as an opportunity.

"The fall is the time to do this, because there are three months of very consistent demand," Mary Lou Pollack, general manager of the Alex Hotel on the East Side, told Crain's.

Thanksgiving rates at the Alex start at $369, and suites will set you back $599 a night.

--With Amy Sacks and Cristina Silva

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