|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 22, 2012--Improving occupancy rates at Orlando hotels stalled in April, as an early Easter made year-over-year comparisons difficult for local hoteliers.
Hotels in the Orlando area filled 75.9 percent of their rooms last month, compared with 76.3 percent in April 2011, according to the latest survey by Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotel markets nationwide.
But the average price of a room rose 4 percent in April, more than offsetting the slight decline in the percentage of rooms filled. The average daily rate for the market was $106.55, compared with $102.46 a year earlier.
One challenge for hoteliers was the timing of Easter: The holiday fell on April 8 this year, compared with April 24 last year. That kind of change in the calendar usually results in a shorter spring-break travel season.
Mother Nature may also have chipped away at April's bookings, as relatively mild weather up North meant fewer tourists were itching to head south for Florida's warm weather, said Jay Leonard, general manager of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort.
"No one was exhausted from winter this year," Leonard said. "A late Easter and a cold winter in the Northeast -- the Northern states -- is beautiful for us."
Brad Houghton, area director of revenue for the Holiday Inn Main Gate East, noticed the slowdown in April following the early Easter. "The first three months of the year -- January through March -- were very strong," he said, and summer is also looking bright in terms of bookings.
According to the Smith Travel's survey, which does not include Walt Disney World hotels, economy and budget properties reported the strongest year-over-year growth in both April occupancy and room rate compared with a year ago. Geographically, the West Kissimmee submarket posted the overall market's strongest growth, with big gains in average daily rate.
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