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Convention Has L.A. Hotels Booked Solid

Events: With 35,000 people expected in town for the gathering, rooms are at a premium. Business travelers could be affected.

August 10, 2000|STEPHEN GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Last-minute business travelers coming to Los Angeles next week may feel a little like Mary and Joseph. Thanks to the Democratic National Convention beginning Monday at Staples Center, there are no rooms at the inn--or even the massive, multistory hotel next door.

With an estimated 35,000 people expected to descend on the region within the next few days, hotels from the Westside to the San Gabriel Valley are booked solid with delegates, friends and family, as well as an estimated 15,000 members of the news media.

Downtown, Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles International Airport area and the San Fernando Valley are also awash in "no vacancy" signs that are expected to stay lit for at least the duration of the four-day presidential nominating convention, which runs Monday through Thursday.

That's not to say business travelers will necessarily have to settle for a manger, but they should expect to pay top dollar for what few hotel rooms remain. At the Holiday Inn near LAX, for example, reservation assistants on Wednesday quoted a combined rate of $398 for Monday and Tuesday nights. That compares with a typical two-day rate of about $240.

Less expensive rooms, however, can still be found outside Los Angeles and its immediate environs. On Wednesday, Hilton hotels in Long Beach and Anaheim, for example, had rooms available next week for $145 to $169 a night.

Dozens of Los Angeles-area hotels are expected to be among the main beneficiaries of the $132 million in direct spending that organizers say the Democratic convention will generate. The political bash should also be good for at least 87,000 overnight hotel stays, according to a study by San Francisco-based PKF Consulting.

But that extra business will come at a price for some hotels. Fears of unruly protests, for example, have prompted the Holiday Inn City Center--across from Staples Center--to beef up its security staff, which among other duties will be checking on the identities of visitors at the entrance to the hotel, general manager John Kelly said. "Only registered guests will be allowed to come in," he said.

Even hotels outside ground zero, such as the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, are taking precautions. Bill Doak, the hotel's marketing director, said that in the next few days, staffers will be removing stand-alone gas heaters, ash trays and other objects that could be picked up and thrown from areas outside the building. He also said a full contingent of 12 security officers will be on duty all next week.

The Democratic National Convention is the latest feather in the cap of the local hotel industry, which has enjoyed a surge in occupancy and revenue in recent years. During the first half of this year, average occupancy in Los Angeles County hotels hit 77% capacity, 4% over the same period a year ago, PKF reported. At the same time, hotels were charging nearly $6 more per night at an average room rate of $121.85.

Orange County also saw similar increases, with average occupancy of 78% and an average hotel price of $110.64, more than 4% higher than during January through June a year ago.

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