|By Eric Anderson, Albany Times Union,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 29, 2009--SARATOGA SPRINGS -- On the eve of the 141st season at Saratoga Race Course, available hotel rooms here are getting harder to find.
And that's good news for an industry that feared the recession might keep people home this race season.
"We were trying to be cautiously optimistic," said David Zunker, president of Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. "We were seeing numbers down 5 to 6 percent in June." But this weekend, most hotels in Saratoga Springs will be full, according to online booking site expedia.com.
Of 21 properties it listed Tuesday, 14 couldn't accommodate visitors on both weekend nights.
Those with rooms still available were charging as much as $460 a night.
"We're full and we're full," said Ron Day, general manager of The Saratoga Hilton hotel, of the upcoming weekend. "The weekends are going to be your strongest time.
"I'm looking at my forecast. We're 100 percent today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday," he said Tuesday afternoon. "Sunday we dip down a bit, going into the early part of the week."
The race course doesn't operate on Tuesdays, so early in the week is the good time to find a room.
Zunker said many visitors have been waiting until the last minute to make vacation plans.
"Everyone, including groups, is booking extremely short-term," he said. "People are making decisions based on price and on the weather."
Could this August be better than last?
"It might be a little too aggressively optimistic to say we're going to be up," Day said. "We're going to be flat, but our rates are going to be down."
The Hilton "curved back" some of its room rates this year, given the economic outlook.
Other properties in the city also are doing well.
"Our occupancy is just about full," said Brittany Searl, front desk clerk at the Inn at Saratoga. "We do have some rooms here and there."
Zunker was upbeat about the outlook for August.
"It could be better actually than last year," he said. "Saratoga is a gem."
Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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