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Occupancy at Charlotte Hotels on the Rise -
Three Months in a Row Over 60%

By Kirsten Valle, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 12, 2010 -- Charlotte's tourism business continued a steady recovery in June, with occupancy rates edging above similar cities and the U.S. average, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority reported Wednesday.

But hotel room prices remained weak, dropping below last year's levels and coming up short compared with other markets.

The results from Smith Travel Research, reported during the CRVA's monthly board meeting, showed that the Charlotte hotel market continued its streak of six consecutive months of year-to-year occupancy growth, which hasn't happened since early 2007.

Occupancy was about 61 percent in June, up 8.6 percent from the year before. Year to date, occupancy was about 58 percent, compared to 53 percent the year before.

June also marked the third straight month the market has topped 60 percent occupancy -- the first time that's happened since spring and summer of 2008.

So far this year, hotel occupancy is up almost 10 percent locally, compared to 4.4 percent growth nationwide. Average occupancy for the U.S. was about 56 percent this year through June.

Despite the apparent recovery in rooms booked, though, hotel rates remain below average. The Charlotte area's daily room rate was about $77 in June, down from $80 the year before. Year to date, room rates are about $79, compared to $82 last year -- a drop of 3.8 percent.

Rates across the U.S., by comparison, have dropped about 2 percent so far this year over the year before, with the average daily price about $97. Room rates in markets similar to Charlotte -- a set including Tampa, Atlanta and Minneapolis -- are about $88, the CRVA reported.

Hospitality tax collections were down in June, too, the report found. Regular occupancy tax collections totaled $21.4 million for the 2010 fiscal year through June, down 5 percent from the same period last fiscal year. Collections from the NASCAR Hall of Fame were also down 5 percent, to $7.1million.

Prepared food and beverage tax collections rose about 1 percent during that period, to $20.1 million, the CRVA found.

The CRVA is encouraged about the future, officials said Wednesday. The number of room nights booked is already above target for several years out, thanks to conventions, trade shows and other activities. The CRVA estimates it's at 101 percent of its room-night pace -- above the 97 percent average for its peer group, which includes Baltimore, Pittsburgh and other cities.

Kirsten Valle: 704-358-5248


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