Rise in hotel bookings boon for county coffers 

After several tough years for hotels in San Mateo County, the industry made a rebound at the end of last year, thanks in large part to a rise in business-related bookings.

Hotel occupancy rates were up 7.4 percent through November 2010 compared with the same time in 2009, said Anne LeClair, the CEO of the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Average room rates were up, too, rising to $106.87 per night compared to $104.16 the year prior, LeClair said, pointing to market data from Smith Travel Research surveying 146 hotel properties on the Peninsula.

“Everyone’s cautiously optimistic because the numbers are definitely climbing and climbing steadily,” LeClair said.

LeClair said the higher occupancy rates, up to 73.6 percent through November versus 68.5 percent in 2009, are due in part to companies and membership associations having more meetings in Peninsula hotels. She said September and October were particularly hot months for conferences.

“We are very pleased at the uptick in corporate meetings,” LeClair said. “Those are the ones that really fell off a couple of years ago.”  

Leisure travelers are “actually coming back as well,” she said. “People aren’t going to completely forgo a vacation.”

The numbers are welcome news for cities, especially those near San Francisco International Airport that rely heavily on hotel taxes for revenue, such as Burlingame, Millbrae and South San Francisco.

In South San Francisco, which has 30 hotels, the occupancy rate for September was 85 percent, compared with 80.6 percent in 2009, said Justin Lovell, a financial analyst for the city. Also, city voters passed a 1 percent hike in the transit occupancy tax last year, increasing it to 10 percent.

With those two factors, officials expected income from the transit occupancy tax, which makes up around 10 percent of the city’s $61 million in revenue, to rise by 12 percent to $6.2 million for 2010.

The 18 hotels in Redwood City also are pumping more revenue into government coffers, with transit occupancy taxes up to $770,000 from July through September 2010, compared to $684,000 for that period a year before, according to Rajesh Sewak, the city’s revenue services manager.

Most of that increased traffic is business meetings, Sewak said, “so Oracle must be doing well or [Electronic Arts] must be doing well.”





Bringing in the bucks

Like other cities near the San Francisco International Airport, South San Francisco hopes hotel taxes are back on the upswing. Revenue generated by fiscal year:

2005-06: $5.5 million

2006-07: $6 million

2007-08: $7.1 million

2008-09: $5.9 million

2009-10: $5.8 million

2010-11: $6.2 million (projected)

Source: City of South San Francisco

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