|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 21, 2011--Orlando's hotel market continued to show improvement last month, as demand for hotel rooms drove prices up.
Hotels in the Orlando area filled 63.8 percent of their rooms during November, compared with 60.2 percent during the same month a year ago. The average daily rate climbed 4.3 percent to $92.66, according to data released Tuesday by Smith Travel Research.
The year-over-year improvement came on top of big gains a year ago. Last November, Orlando-area hotels posted their best showing for the month since 2007, as the nation was headed into a record-long recession.
"Across the board, everything looks good. Occupancy has increased over last year. With the exception of Kissimmee East, rate has increased," said Scott Smith, a faculty member at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
The first half of November is typically a big month for business meetings and conventions in Central Florida, Smith said. Another big draw is the Florida Classic, which features historic rivals Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University.
Bookings for the football game were about equal with last year at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on International Drive. Given the economy, that came as a surprise, said General Manager Mary Bonomo.
"I was definitely surprised at the number of people that were still coming to participate," she said. "I was expecting a lower turnout rate this year."
Central Florida's lower-priced hotels led the market in percentage growth compared with a year ago. Budget properties, the lowest-priced category, experienced an increase of nearly 26 percent in revenue per available room, a key industry measure. The market as a whole reported a 10.6 percent increase in revenue per available room.
Despite the gains, budget properties continued to fill a smaller percentage of rooms than their high-end counterparts.
The Smith Travel data do not include Walt Disney World hotels.
If included, Central Florida's largest hotel operator would likely sway the numbers higher because Disney's hotel occupancy rate tends to be greater.
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