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Hotel occupancy down a bit in ’01

Rates in Utah began slipping in June, took a dive after Sept. 11

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Occupancy rates at Utah hotels dropped to 59.9 percent in 2001, down 1 percent when compared to 2000, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.

Rates in 2001 had shown monthly gains through May over the previous year, but by June occupancy began slipping. The biggest drop occurred in September, when the rate fell 6.3 percentage points after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

In December, the overall occupancy rate in Utah rose slightly to 47.4 percent, up 0.7 percentage points from 46.7 percent in December 2000.

For the Salt Lake metropolitan area, occupancy also declined over the previous year, ending the year at 61.8 percent — 1.1 percentage points lower than 2000.

"That's a pretty minimal drop off," said Bill Hopping, president of W.R. Hopping & Co. Inc., a hotel consulting company based in Littleton, Colo. "The main impact of 9/11 has been on fly-in markets. A lot of the regions of the Salt Lake area are more dependent on drive markets than fly. Salt Lake is less dependent on fly than some of the major metro markets around the country like Denver, Orlando, Honolulu, Chicago and Las Vegas."

While tourism has suffered since September, Hopping said drive traffic is up.

"We are probably not far from where we would have been without 9/11," he said.

Average room rates in Utah last year ranged from a high of $105.06 in areas outside of the Wasatch Front, like Park City, to a low of $56.32 in Logan.

The state's highest occupancy rates for 2001 occurred in northern Davis County at 66.9 percent. The lowest occupancy for the year was in Cedar City at 52.1 percent.

E-mail: danderton@desnews.com