|By Tom Belden, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 14, 2005 - Talk about Saturday night fever.
To the surprise of some people in the hospitality business, the best night of the week for filling Philadelphia hotel rooms last year was not Tuesday or Wednesday, when business travel usually is at its peak, but Saturday, according to a new study.
The Philadelphia-Area Hospitality Industry Snapshot -- the first joint effort of its kind by three organizations that promote Philadelphia to visitors -- found that 80 percent of the city's hotels were filled on Saturday nights last year. The hotel occupancy rate was 70.8 percent for all days year-round and averaged 71.8 percent Monday through Friday.
The report, prepared by hotel consultant Peter R. Tyson, provides evidence that the region's marketing and sales efforts aimed at both business and leisure travelers are paying off -- and not just on Saturday nights, according to officials of the organizations that sponsored the report. The sponsoring groups are the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.
"You've got a lot of engines working here," said John Kroll, president of the hotel association and general manager of the Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing. "International travel is doing well. The historical sites are doing well. The addition of low-cost carriers at the airport is part of the reason hotel occupancy is up, because that's allowed more people to visit the city."
The Saturday night stay-overs are "mostly leisure travel," said Tyson, a longtime consultant in the region who was hired last fall by the three organizations to produce the Snapshot each month. "But some of it is convention and group business. That's great, because traditionally, in an urban environment, everybody expects Monday through Thursday will be your best days."
Starting just after Sept. 11, 2001, with the economy weak and travel depressed, the tourism-marketing agency began its "Philly's More Fun When You Sleep Over" and "You Can't Do It in Just a Day" advertising campaigns. They put the city's name in front of millions of people in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, officials said.
At the same time, the convention bureau and individual hotels focused on filling rooms with people attending small and midsize business meetings that often are planned only weeks or months in advance. The city's ability to attract large conventions and trade shows had been hampered at the time by the Convention Center's reputation for high labor costs and unpredictable service.
Besides figures on hotel occupancy and the average rates hotels charged in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs, the report breaks down the occupancy by type of guest. In Philadelphia last year, those attending conventions made up the largest group, at 40 percent, followed by individual business travelers at 32 percent. About 25 percent were leisure travelers, and 3 percent were airline crews staying overnight between flights.
The report also shows attendance at the Convention Center and Independence Visitor Center, passenger counts at Philadelphia International Airport, the number of hotel packages booked through the tourism marketing agency, and the number of times someone clicked on the Web sites of the tourism marketing agency and the convention bureau. The report also breaks down the number of nights hotel rooms were occupied by international visitors and how many people arrived on bus tours.
For the five-county region as a whole, occupancy in 2004 was 68.5 percent, and the average daily room rate was $103.36. In Philadelphia, the occupancy rate was 70.8 percent and the average daily rate was $119.72. All are increases from 2003.
The rise in average daily room rates is another indicator that demand for hotels was strong, officials of the organizations said.
Meryl Levitz, president of the tourism marketing corporation, said the success of the region's promotional efforts is among the reasons hotels no longer offer the two-nights-for-the-price-of-one rates they did two or three years ago to draw visitors. This year's tourism ad campaign places more emphasis on the variety of attractions and activities, she said.
"We're advertising the destination ... and not just pushing a deal as the reason to come to Philadelphia," she said. "We're pushing Philadelphia as the reason to come to Philadelphia."
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