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June 24, 2018


Making Room

Hotel owners get a boost during a normally slow period.

Diane Sears | 11/1/2005
When Daryl Cronk presents third-quarter hotel occupancy and revenue figures for metro Orlando, he has to add a footnote. The numbers have been skewed for the second year in a row by hurricane evacuees filling rooms that normally remain empty during the waning weeks of summer, says the research manager with the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Among the 113,000 hotel and motel rooms in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, occupancy rates for September rose from 48% in 2003 to 63.3% in 2004, and final figures are expected to be unusually high this year, too. Revenue per available room rose accordingly -- in fact, the projected national revenue per available room rate for 2005 was upgraded from 7.6% to 8.2% nationally after Hurricane Katrina, according to Smith Travel Research. The one figure that stays steady after an evacuation crisis is the average room rate, Cronk says, because the rooms are filled with people paying government rates or hurricane victim discounts.

The CVB has developed an emergency system to track room availability in the tri-county area, which has the second-largest inventory behind Las Vegas, says Tricia Kearns, the CVB's community relations manager. The bureau frequently updates its database during hurricanes. Evacuees get rooms by calling a hot line operated by the CVB.

In 2004, Kearns says, the hot line operated for 33 days and placed more than 7,000 evacuees of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Local leaders are still counting the numbers from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Unlike the 2004 hurricane season, when Orlando hotels hosted mostly in-state residents and workers repairing power lines and roofs, this year's storms left many without homes and needing long-term solutions. FEMA and Red Cross have paid for hotel stays of two weeks and sometimes longer. But rooms aren't as readily available long term because of conventions scheduled in the area, local leaders said during a post-Katrina community meeting in downtown Orlando organized by the Rollins College Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center for about 150 representatives of social service agencies and faith-based groups.

Other cities nationwide have invited Katrina victims to relocate there, but that option isn't as easy in Orlando, which is facing a shortage of homes, especially affordable housing. So the hotel rooms really offer only a short-term escape with less stress than a public shelter, says Rich Bradley, a voluntary agency liaison with FEMA in Orlando.

"It's a marvelous solution," he says. "How well it works remains to be seen."

New Orleans Cancellations
The nation's major convention venues are making room for events that were planned for New Orleans, which has canceled everything scheduled at its Ernest N. Morial Convention Center through next March, including more than 30 conferences with a projected economic impact of $1.3 billion. The Orange County Convention Center has picked up at least three events that are expected to generate almost $48 million in spending in Orlando:
HP Technology Forum, Oct. 17-20, 5,500 attendees, projected $3.97 million economic impact
National Business Aviation Association, Nov. 9-11, 35,000 attendees, projected $40.88 million economic impact
Gerontological Society of America, Nov. 17-22, 4,000 attendees, projected $2.89 million economic impact
Coming Up
For the first time, Orlando is hosting an event that brings together 24 executives from the nation's largest trade shows. During the Large Show Roundtable on Dec. 8 at the Orange County Convention Center, leaders will discuss industry issues and hear from experts...

Orlando is gearing up for its first-time hosting of Performance Racing Industry's annual convention, scheduled for Dec. 1-3 at the Orange County Convention Center. Usually held in Indianapolis, the event is expected to bring 45,000 attendees spending $52.4 million in central Florida.

Orlando Hotel/Motel SnapshotYear (for Sept.)OccupancyAvg. Room RateRevenue per available room200463.3%$77.70$49.18200348.0%$75.75$36.36200246.5%$81.80$38.04200144.0%$72.85$32.05Note: 2005 numbers not available in time for publication. Source: Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tags: Dining & Travel

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