More Americans are checking into hotels
New data show that it's not just vacaction spots seeing strength as more business and vacation travelers venture out again.
Another sign of a strengthening economy: Hotel occupancy rates in the U.S. have bounced back to near pre-recession levels.
The industry metrics are looking good. Hotel News Now says in year-over-year comparisons, overall occupancy rose 3.6% to 53.5% -- with average daily rates up 6% and revenue per available room up 9.8%.
As you might expect, some of the top-performing hotels markets are in prime vacation spots. New Orleans hotels got a big boost from the recent Super Bowl there. Pacific Business News reports hotels in Hawaii were 90% full last week, up 2.3% compared to the same time period in 2012. And in one of the nation's largest hotel markets, Orlando, Fla., industry sources say the region reported its best growth rate in 14 months this January.
But it's not just the big, seasonal vacation and resort spots that are seeing better hotel business. According to a survey by Indiana-based Smith Travel Research, 2012 year-over-year hotel occupancy in that state was up 3.5%. And while part of the rise was indeed attributed to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, an uptick in business and leisure travelers also contributed to the stronger numbers. In fact, the Indianapolis Business Journal says over 70% of state tourism bureaus are "very optimistic" or just plain "optimistic" about the coming year.
It's the same in Providence, R.I, where room booking are also higher. They've risen above the national average last year, up 3% from 2011 to 68%, reportedly thanks to a strong convention industry there.
And the Calculated Risk financial blog says hotel occupancy rates are expected to gain further momentum as we approach the important spring business travel period.
Analysts say the economic downturn reduced the supply of available hotel rooms, so supply is catching up with demand as the economy finds its footing and people once again venture out.
"Growing demand in the face of very limited new supply sets the stage for very attractive room rate increases and therefore profit growth," Mark Woodworth, president of hotel property-research firm PKF Hospitality, told CNBC last month.
Woodworth noted that now is "probably the best time that we've seen in the industry, in terms of fundamentals being solid, going back to the mid-1970s."
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