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Orange County's Hotel Rooms Get More Visitors in '93 : Hospitality: The 3.1% increase is a sign that the industry is emerging from recession, analysts say. Room rates fell, though.

March 12, 1994|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County's hotels finished 1993 with a 3.1% increase in room occupancies, one of the first clear signs that the industry is emerging from recession.

Room rates dipped 1.1% for the year, however, showing that hoteliers are still cutting prices and offering discounts to stay competitive, according to PKF Consulting, a Los Angeles firm that tracks the industry.

Orange County, which had an occupancy rate of 66.9% for the year, contrasted with 64.9% for 1992, did better than Los Angeles, where the occupancy rate for 1993 was 61.9%.

Bruce Baltin, director of PKF's hotel consulting group, said that Orange County's airport area has snapped back, whereas the hotels near Los Angeles International Airport have not seen major occupancy gains.

Orange County's airport-area hotels, in fact, had the biggest increase in occupancy for the year--a 7.9% rise to 62.7%. Airport hotels typically cater to traveling business people, so the increase was seen as a sign of increased commerce.

"Some Los Angeles companies have moved" to Orange County, said Rod Schinnerer, manager of the Hyatt Regency Irvine, a large airport-area hotel. "I have seen a little more international traffic. That could be the result of Los Angeles' loss also."

The Anaheim area, the county's top tourist and convention destination, did well too. Occupancy was 68.3%, up 1.6% from 1992.

"It was not a bad year, but we still see a trend in which the conventions have fewer attendees than in past years," said Robert Schrader, general manager of the Pan Pacific Hotel, next to Disneyland.

Ned Snavely, general manager of the Anaheim Marriott hotel, said that several major groups helped bolster occupancy in December. They included not only conventioneers but also football fans headed for the Rose Bowl and Liberty Bowl games.

He said: "1993 ended up as a better year than we ever would have forecast. We certainly can't argue with the results."

North Orange County had an occupancy rate of 66.9%, up 1.5% over the previous year.

South Orange County, which draws a resort and corporate getaway crowd, also fared well. Its annual occupancy rate was 68.3%, up 5.1%.

"We're coming out of the recession, I believe," said Penny Elia, spokeswoman for the Dana Point Resort.

Beyond the improving economy, South County got another lucky break during the spring and summer last: good weather. When people can't bask in the sun, they tend to go elsewhere. Judging by the weather so far this year, hoteliers said, their luck could continue.

"This quarter, the weather has been better than last year," said Bob Van Ness, sales director for the Surf & Sand Hotel in Laguna Beach. "That always bodes well."

Fewer Empty Rooms

Despite the lingering effects of the economic downturn, Orange County's hotel operators reported an upturn in business last year. Many say that they were pleased with the increased occupancy rate for 1993 and that it defied their expectations. They are still offering discounts to fill rooms, however, making their operations less profitable than they would be had the rooms been occupied at full price.

HOTEL OCCUPANCY RATES

Average December 1993 1992 1993 1992 Anaheim 68.3% 67.2% 55.8% 48.7% South County 68.3 65.0 53.1 52.3 Airport area 62.7 58.1 54.3 49.7 North County 66.9 65.9 54.4 51.2 Countywide 66.9 64.9 55.2 49.4

AVERAGE ROOM RATES

Average December 1993 1992 1993 1992 Anaheim $81.51 $82.49 $76.60 $78.86 South County 68.98 70.07 61.67 60.28 Airport area 71.84 72.03 67.04 67.83 North County 58.27 58.94 55.65 54.97 Countywide 76.19 77.04 71.41 72.58

Source: PKF Consulting

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