|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 20, 2011--Orlando's hotel industry had an unsually busy September, with hotels in the tourist corridor boosting their occupancy significantly compared with a year ago.
Hotels in the Orlando area filled 56.4 percent of their rooms during the month, compared with 50.3 percent in September 2010. And the average daily room rate rose 5.7 percent to $81.85, according to Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotels in markets nationwide.
Still, it's hard to read a lot into the results for September, generally a month when tourism is slow and group business is hit or miss.
"September's one of those strange months -- it's a 'shoulder' month," said Scott Smith, a lodging instructor in the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management. "It really is not what I would call an accurate indicator of the trends for the year."
Still, many of Orlando's hospitality submarkets posted double-digit percentage growth in revenue per available room, a key industry indicator. West Kissimmee, which had a dismal September last year, saw its revenue per available room jump nearly 33 percent. International Drive, which recorded impressive gains in September 2010, built on that performance with a 24.5 percent increase.
"After Labor Day, we just had a lot of group business in the hotel," said Alan Villaverde, managing director of the Peabody Orlando near the Orange County Convention Center. "It was pretty successful."
While room rates continued their steady year-over-year improvement in September, Smith said he suspects local hoteliers are thirsting for more.
"I sense that everyone's looking for one really swinging month -- a month where the rate shoots up really high," he said. But with political issues such as unemployment, health care and Wall Street protests weighing on people's minds, he said, "I don't think we're going to get it, not any time soon."
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