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Where group travel goes, so does the economy.
At least that’s the case according to local hoteliers and other hospitality-industry professionals who say that a developing spike in room blocks and meetings is a true sign that, at long last, the economic woes that have plagued their business for the last few years could be almost over.
“This year, it really seems to have turned the corner,” said Mark Gervais, general manager at Hotel Viking in Newport. “We took a pretty good hit when the economy turned abruptly in 2008 and stayed down. [But] we’ll surpass [pre-recession] group-reservation levels by next year.”
The trend is part of a general increase in hotel-occupancy rates that the state is seeing grow at a faster rate than the national average.
“[Hospitality] actually started to slip earlier than the true recession [but] started to rebound faster,” said Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. “[That] might be a good indicator that the economy is on its way back.”
In 2007, just before the economy started on its downturn, Rhode Island’s hotel-occupancy rate was 63.5 percent and its average daily rate (ADR) was $156.23, according to the PWCVB.
By the next year, Smith Travel Research reports – when things really started getting bad – those rates fell to 57.1 percent and $126.59, respectively.
(The PWCVB cautions that the opening of the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel in June 2007 could have changed the trajectory of numbers that year.)
Only a drop in business, however, can account for the reduction 2009 saw, when the occupancy rate fell to 54.3 percent and the ADR to $111.92.
Good news started coming in 2010, when rates went to 60.3 percent for occupancy, though they were pretty much stagnant for ADR. Things kept on a modest improvement last year, with occupancy rising to 61.2 percent and ADR to $114.50.
Though no one has a crystal ball and variables such as weather could shift trends away from an upward swing in the coming months, the general feeling is that of cautious optimism.