|By Levi J. Long, The Arizona Daily Star,
TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Aug. 10, 2006 - In the normally sluggish summer, local hoteliers and tourism officials say it has been a solid season, though a new occupancy report won't confirm that assessment for a couple of weeks.
Tucson-area hotels and resorts ended June with a 73 percent occupancy rate, according to Smith Travel Research, a Hendersonville, Tenn.-based company that tracks hospitality trends.
That rate is up from 70.8 percent for the same month in 2005, said. Rick Vaughan, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The Smith report also noted a 5.4 percent increase in average room rates for the month, up this year to $101.47 per room. Last year's figure was $96.29.
"Last year was a strong year. What we're seeing is that Tucson is keeping up with overall growth while the occupancy rate is growing," Vaughan said.
"The figures are reflective of Tucson as a destination market," he said. "It's fortunate for the region we're able to keep marketability up."
It's too early to tell, however, to see exactly how Tucson's summer season has fared.
Smith Travel is expected to release July figures on Aug. 23. Anecdotally, local hotel managers say July has been a good month.
"From what I can gather, occupancy rates are as expected," said Brian Johnson, president of the Southern Arizona Lodging and Resort Association.
Most of SALARA's 40 hotel members reported occupancy July rates in the mid-70 percentile range, Johnson said. Area resorts also broke the $100 average daily room rates, he said.
"Summer is always a hard season," said Johnson, who is also general manager of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Drive. "But what we're finding is we're getting more and more people from Phoenix and Scottsdale. That's the market during the summer."
When it came to rising gas prices, some travelers didn't seem to take that into account when coming to Tucson, Johnson said.
"Gas has affected airlines fares, but if you're making that two-hour drive from Phoenix and Scottsdale, it's not that expensive," Johnson said.
Sue Lemon director of sales for the Westward Look Resort, 245 E. Ina Road, agrees and said gas prices didn't deter guests arriving from throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California.
Gas prices were the big concern for the industry but it didn't seem to affect the summer season, she said.
"We were projecting small growth, but we exceeded what we anticipated this year," she said, citing a 4 percent increase in the resort's occupancy rate from last year.
Only about half of the guests took advantage of a gas-reimbursement offer, she said.
"Those who did thought it was a great idea," she said.
William Conroy, president of the Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St., said the boutique hotel's summer expectations were met with a steady stream of guests from Phoenix and Scottsdale and California and Texas.
"We're on line with expectations. It's been a nice time of year for us," he said, noting that most of the 86 rooms have remained consistently booked.
With students arriving back to the University of Arizona, the hotel expects "a nice little bump" to end August, he said.
"It does seem like Tucson is very healthy and the economy is healthy. We feel great about wrapping up August on a good note," he said.
By the numbers
--Contact reporter Levi J. Long at 573-4179 or email@example.com.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson
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