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Picture Is More Crowded for Hotel Rooms : Tourism: July occupancy figures increased over last year, and the county held its own with the rest of the country, two studies say.

September 09, 1993|SUSAN CHRISTIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tourists and business travelers rediscovered Orange County in July: Hotels booked about 2,200 more rooms per night than during the same month last year.

The county's hotel occupancy rate climbed to 73.9%, up from 70.4% for July, 1992, according to a study released Wednesday by PKF Consulting. Room rates crept up from an average of $70.16 to $70.26--still far from keeping pace with inflation, but better than the steady declines endured by the industry over the past two years.

Orange County's hotel market held its own compared to the rest of the nation too. A survey just released by Smith Travel Research in Gallatin, Tenn., put the occupancy rate here at 74.7% and nationally at 74.4%.

There are about 44,000 hotel rooms in Orange County, meaning that about 33,000 were filled on any given night in July.

"When you think about it, that's a lot of people staying in hotel rooms," said Mark Lomanno, executive director for Smith Travel, which does marketing research for most of the major hotel chains.

Los Angeles County lagged far behind the nation in both polls, with PKF Consulting calculating an occupancy rate there of 64.1% for July and Smith Travel tallying 62.3%

"Los Angeles is still suffering the after-effects of the riots," said Melissa Mills, research coordinator in the Los Angeles office of PKF Consulting, a hospitality-industry consultant.

Across the nation, the hotel industry has been digging itself out after excessive building in the 1980s. "Very few new hotels have come on line in the past two years, so demand has had a chance to catch up with supply," Lomanno said.

Fortunately, the number of hotel users has been increasing by about 4% annually since the mid-1980s, Lomanno said, so eventually the glut could be consumed.

"People fail to recognize that, thanks to baby boomers, demographics are in favor of a strong hotel market," Lomanno said. "About 76 million people are now at their peak earning and traveling years."

Despite healthier occupancy rates, hotels have had trouble seeing much profit because empty rooms have created a highly competitive market.

"Our room rates have been flat for a couple of years, yet inflation has kept rising," said Catherine Boire, a spokeswoman in the Santa Ana office of Marriott Hotels, Resorts & Suites, the lodging division of Marriott Corp.

Of Marriott's six hotels in Orange County, the Disneyland location has done the best this summer, Boire said. July and August are usually the strongest months for the hotel industry.

Overall, Anaheim hotels had a July occupancy rate of 76.2%, up 2.2% from the same month last year. South Orange County made the most impressive showing: 79.2%, a 14.3% jump. The John Wayne Airport area's hotels enjoyed an 8.6% leap in occupancy to 68.3%.

"More and more tourists are preferring to stay close to the beach rather than in Anaheim, and then drive to Disneyland for the day," said Bill Simmons, director of sales for Irvine's Hyatt Regency.

Jim Burba, a hotel industry consultant in Laguna Beach, said the improved statistics indicate that businesses as well as vacationers are more eager to travel. "Apparently, companies are sending people back on the road," he said. "Instead of sending 10 people to a conference, they're sending 15."

Hotels Busier in July Bookings at Orange County hotels were up in July, and rooms rented for slightly more than a year earlier. Occupancy rates increased in all areas, led by a jump of nearly 10% in South County.

Average daily room rate Percent occup July '92 July '93 % change July '92 July '93 Anaheim $73.21 $73.79 +0.8% 74.6% 76.2% South Orange County 81.13 78.69 -3.0 69.3 79.2 Airport area 69.29 69.98 +1.0 62.9 68.3 North Orange County 55.47 53.98 -2.7 65.9 71.9 County average 70.16 70.26 +0.1 70.4 73.9

ancy % change Anaheim 1.6% South Orange County 9.9 Airport area 5.4 North Orange County 6.0 County average 3.5

Source: PKF Consulting sample survey

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