Two nationally televised events last year - a wildfire and flooding - combined with the two-week federal government shutdown to pound the Colorado Springs area hotel industry, sending the 2013 occupancy rate to a four-year low and keeping room rates to the smallest gain in three years.
The average occupancy rate for local hotels fell to 59.1 percent in 2013, down from 60.5 percent in 2012. It's the lowest annual average since 2009 when occupancies hit a 19-year low of 56.6 percent, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.
Average daily room rates last year rose 1.9 percent from 2012 to $91, compared with a 2.7 percent increase in 2012 and a 3.1 percent gain in 2011.
"The (hotel) industry reacted well to what we faced - an unprecedented situation of a major fire, several floods and a shutdown of the federal government for more than two weeks - to still get the occupancy rate that we did," said Ann Alba, resident manager of The Broadmoor hotel and president of the Pikes Peak Lodging Association. "Whenever you go backwards like this, it takes a long time to recover. We need to keep a constant focus on getting people to visit this region."
The Black Forest fire burned nearly 500 homes in June, and flooding hit Manitou Springs, Black Forest and other Colorado areas in late summer - events that made the national news, which may have kept tourists away.
In October, the federal government was shut down for 17 days. With a large military population and many companies that do business with the federal government, Colorado Springs-area hotels took a hit as travel to the city and meetings were canceled or postponed.
Full-service hotels, properties with extensive meeting space, restaurant and other amenities were hit harder than limited-service properties last year - the occupancy rate for full-service hotels fell to 60.6 percent in 2013 from 63.1 percent in 2012, while the occupancy rate for limited-service hotels increased to 56.4 percent last year from 55.7 percent in 2012. The average room rate for fell-service properties rose 2.3 percent to $97.19, while the average rate for limited service hotels edged up 1.6 percent to $78.79.
The Broadmoor and Cheyenne Mountain Resort are not included in the totals for the Springs area, but are part of a separate category, "other resorts," with many of the state's ski resorts. The occupancy rate for that category rose to 47 percent in 2013 from 45.5 percent in 2012.
It appears that better times are on the way for local hotels, said Chelsy Murphy, communications director for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. Murphy said bookings for this year are strong, helped by the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships next month and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August.
Statewide, the hotel occupancy rate last year rose to 64 percent from 61.8 percent in 2012, while the average room rate increased 3.5 percent to $127.84. Occupancy rates rose in Denver, Glenwood Springs, Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and most of the state's ski resorts, but fell in Durango and Estes Park - the latter having been hit by flooding that damaged businesses and closed roads leading to the town. Occupancy rates across the state rose from a year ago in every month but March and June, including a 2.6 percentage point gain in December to 50.6 percent. The average room rate in December was up 4.4 percent from a year ago to $144.82.
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