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South Florida Hotels Enjoyed Higher Occupancy Rates in 2010 -
But with a Price of Heavy Discounts

By Hannah Sampson, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 25, 2011--Many South Florida hotels were more full in 2010 than the previous year, though hoteliers often sacrificed high prices to get travelers in the door.

While occupancy rates were up in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties -- in some cases to pre-recession levels -- room rates either showed a small increase or decrease, according to figures released Monday by Smith Travel Research.

"The toughest mountain to climb is to get your rates back up to where they were in 2007, 2008," said Nicki Grossman, president of Broward's tourism bureau.

Despite a slight increase in the number of available rooms, Miami-Dade showed the strongest increases in occupancy, room rates and the key measure of revpar -- revenue per available room. Occupancy was up nearly 8 percent to 70.2 over 2009; rates inched up almost 3 percent to $144 and revenue per room rose almost 11 percent to $101 -- making Miami one of only five top U.S. markets to post a double-digit revpar increase.

Additional flights to and from Miami, more cruise passenger traffic and increases in the number of large conventions all helped Miami's performance, tourism officials said. The back-to-back Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in early 2010 also didn't hurt.

"On all sides, it was a strong year," said William Talbert III, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In Broward, occupancy increased 7 percent to just over 67 percent, but room rates dropped a little over 1 percent to almost $108, according to STR. Revenue per room was up nearly 6 percent to about $72.50. It, too, added inventory last year.

Grossman said the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau's own number crunching indicates a slight increase in rates, but she acknowledged prices remain the weak point because larger hotels have to negotiate to get group business and sell rooms competitively online.

At the Atlantic Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, occupancy leapt 20 percent, said sales and marketing director Tom Roth, with a slightly increased rate.

"We discounted less in 2010 than 2009, but still even in the luxury market, people were looking for the deal," Roth said.

Although the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf never sent oil to South Florida shores, all three counties said they took a hit.

In the Florida Keys, even small increases were welcome news. Occupancy increased more than 1.5 percent to 70.5, rates were up more than 3 percent to over $177 and revenue per room increased almost 5 percent to $125.

"Imagine what we could've done if we didn't have the oil spill," said Andy Newman, spokesman for the Florida Keys tourism bureau.

Mirroring the increases in hotel numbers in Miami-Dade, the county's airport and port released figures Monday showing more visitors traveling through the area.

Miami International Airport said that it had set a new annual passenger traffic record in 2010, with 35.7 million passengers. The previous record of 34.5 million passengers was set in 1997. Cargo volume was up nearly 19 percent from 2009 at 1.99 million tons.

The Port of Miami said that it had a record 1.14 million cruise passengers in the fiscal year's first quarter, which ended in December. That's up nearly 20 percent from the same time a year before.


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Copyright (c) 2011, The Miami Herald

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