KEY WEST, Fla. -- Florida Keys hotels are beginning to see a light
at the end of the tunnel, thanks to encouraging occupancy levels
during the Christmas period.
Occupancies averaged 85% to 90% for the two weeks of the
Christmas season, according to Peter Ilchuk, executive director of
the Lodging Association of Key West and the Florida Keys.
"Most importantly, general managers are telling me their
reservations phones are ringing again," Ilchuk said.
At the 120-room Hyatt Key West, Mohammad Gharavi, general
manager, told Travel Weekly his property was sold out for the
holiday period and that it had scattered sold-out dates for the
rest of the winter.
Travel agent business, about 25% of the hotel's bookings, is
holding up, he added.
As a boutique hotel handling smaller incentives groups and
meetings, the Hyatt Key West was less affected by cancellations
than hotels that accommodate national meetings, he said.
And social business, much of it tied to air travel, is showing a
late-booking pattern, he added.
While the property trimmed its rates after Sept. 11, the daily
rate is now "catching up to normal," Gharavi said.
At the 200-room Westin Key Largo, run by MeriStar Hotels &
Resorts, Glenn Hoover, general manager, said the property did
better than expected in December, with more room nights than last
year but at a lower yield.
Rates are roughly 20% to 30% lower than last winter's, with a
range of $169 to $269 per night for a standard unit.
Although winter demand has improved, at this time there are no
European wholesaler business is down by 20% to 25% vs. last
winter, and domestic wholesale productivity is off by 10%, Hoover
Group business is more of a challenge because "everyone knows
there are deals out there," he said. Agents continue to account for
10% to 15% of the overall business.
At Hawk's Cay Resort, Duck Key, which has 177 rooms and suites
and 269 villas, holiday occupancy ran 92% to 100%, said Ursula
Boll, vice president of sales and marketing.
During the first three weeks of December, some promotional rates
were available, but the property still posted higher revenue than
it did in December 2000.
The winter booking window shrunk from four- to 10-weeks out a
year ago, to two- to six-weeks ahead, Boll said.
The hotel "values its relationship with agents, whom it
considers ambassadors," Boll said. As a result, agents are free to
book any rate they see on the property's Web site.
Meetings groups this winter remain strong, she said, noting the
resort increased its function space last March.
Some of this strength is from companies that canceled foreign
meetings and decided to stay in the U.S.
Ilchuk, of the lodging
association, advised properties whose average daily room rates
decreased during the past quarter to institute "bona fide
value-added incentives" in conjunction with a strong marketing
program (see sidebar
Said Harold Wheeler, director of the Florida Keys Tourist
Development Council, "Hope-fully, we may have an economic recovery
sooner than expected, leading to a strong second half of the
But even with an improving economy, the shorter booking window
is making financial forecasting difficult for tourism-based
businesses, Ilchuk noted.
"People are being cautious about planning ahead, but at least
they are still taking vacations," he said.
Visit Web for
KEY WEST, Fla. -- Florida Keys visitor interests are offering
value-added deals for the peak winter season at www.fla-keys.com.
The move was in response to a Visit Florida focus group study
revealing that today's travelers expect to find value-added deals
year-round, not just in the off-season.
The value-added deals for winter include free extra nights;
off-season rates on weekdays; credits for dining and spa
activities, and packages that throw in ground transportation,
fishing or a sunset cruise. The deals are updated daily on the
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