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Charlotte, North Carolina Hotels Flooded with Booking Calls for the
2012 Democratic National Convention

By Ely Portillo, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 02, 2011--Moments after the announcement that Charlotte won the 2012 Democratic National Convention, hotel managers were preparing for sellouts and busy directing room requests to the Democratic National Committee.

Bonnie Crail, spokeswoman for the uptown Ritz-Carlton, said calls about rooms started flooding in immediately.

"They probably started about 1hour, 59 minutes ago," Crail said two hours after the announcement. "I'm amazed."

Like many hotels in the area, she said the Ritz has agreed to allocate many of its rooms for the DNC to distribute for the convention. Crail wouldn't say exactly how many rooms but said it is a "good percentage" of the hotel's space.

Requests for booking the hotel's remaining rooms during the convention are being handled on a case-by-case basis, Crail said.

The convention will provide a boost for the area's hotels, recovering from the economic downturn. November's hotel occupancy rate, the most recent available, was 55 percent -- a 6.4 increase over November 2009, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. Average daily rates were $80.60, a 2.6 increase from the same time last year.

Tuesday, it was already too late to call some uptown hotels directly for a reservation the week of the convention, Sept. 3, 2012.

"We're expecting a flood of calls and media requests and already getting quite a few," said David Montgomery, director of sales and marketing at the uptown Westin hotel.

The Westin, Charlotte's biggest hotel, has 700 rooms. Montgomery said the hotel has set aside all of them for the Democratic National Committee.

"We're in a process of funneling requests through the DNC," he said.

Convention boosters say Charlotte has 15,000 hotel rooms in or within 30 minutes of uptown, which the DNC requires, and access to at least another 15,000. More than 35,000 delegates, members of the media and others are expected to attend and fill area hotels to capacity.

The Republican National Committee has said it estimates its convention in Tampa will draw about 40,000 visitors, filling 15,000 hotel rooms for five nights.

Farther from uptown Charlotte, Tuesday's hotel mania apparently had not spread as quickly. Two large hotels near Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Comfort Suites and the Holiday Inn, said they hadn't been receiving calls for the event Tuesday afternoon and hadn't yet booked their rooms for the convention week.

Outside of the city, some hotels that joined the bid to bring the convention to town have already pledged blocks of rooms.

Terry Crawford of the Embassy Suites Charlotte/Concord in Concord said a number of the hotel's rooms were promised to the DNC in advance. He expected other rooms to be booked soon as well, and for the event to drive up hotel bookings around the convention date as well.

"I have no doubt we'll fill all these rooms up," he said.

Lynn McCormack of Concord's Comfort Suites said the hotel hasn't set aside any rooms or received any reservation inquiries, but she expects sales to pick up as soon as Charlotte's hotels are officially full.

"I think we'll be people's next choice after uptown," she said. "It's going to fill everybody up."

And within three hours of the DNC's announcement, another accommodation option -- private residential rooms for rent -- had already appeared on Craigslist. During President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009, thousands of private rooms were available for rent in the Washington, D.C. area, catering to the millions of visitors who couldn't find hotels.

"Have housing (homes & apts.) available for rent during DNC 2012," wrote an anonymous advertiser on Craigslist Tuesday. "Book now before prices increase."


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Copyright (c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

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