|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 22, 2010 --Orlando's hospitality business continued to just creep along the road to recovery in May, though some in the industry are counting on Harry Potter to speed the journey in coming months.
Orlando-area hotels filled 57.8 percent of their rooms on average last month, 1.2 percent more than they did the same month a year ago, according to a Smith Travel Research survey released Monday. Despite the slight improvement, the market's occupancy rate remained below the norm for this time of year.
The real sticking point for Orlando's hotel owners remains prices, which continued to fall from a year earlier. The average daily rate was down more than 11 percent, to $88.39, compared with $99.43 in May 2009.
The market in January saw its biggest jump in average occupancy in more than two years. The pace picked up further in March, with a year-over-year increase of more than 9 percent.
April's results were fairly even with a year ago, though. And the May figures were disappointing in that that hoteliers had been expressing increased optimism, said Richard Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.
"I expected the rates to be down," he said, but "I'm a little surprised by the actual dollar sign."
Hoteliers got a glimpse this past weekend of the boost Universal Orlando's newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter could give their business this summer.
They liked what they saw.
"Harry Potter. Hallelujah," said Maria Teresa Carney, director of travel-industry sales for the International Palms Resort and Conference Center on International Drive.
The crowds flocking to the Potter attraction are a welcome sight for hoteliers who had become resigned to a slumping economy, said Scott Smith, a lodging instructor in the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
"Hoteliers who are around the Harry Potter area are just tickled to death," said Smith, who is not affiliated with Smith Travel. "It couldn't have come at a better time."
Sara K. Clarke can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5664.
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