Airport Hotels Draw Higher Occupancy, Higher Rates

Thanks in part to weather-related cancellations and other travel disruptions, airport hotels had strong occupancy rates during the first few months of this year. And as it turns out, the sector is looking to upgrade its offerings in hopes of stretching beyond its captive market.

The last resort. The place you go when you’re stuck overnight or stranded by weather that chose not to play fair. A place so far from the city center that you might as well be somewhere else.

Airport hotels don’t exactly have a reputation that screams “desired meeting destination,” but the utilitarian locales are nonetheless surging in popularity these days. That’s according to a report by hotel statistics firm STR, which noted that hotels near airports reached all-time-high occupancy rates earlier this year. Around 27.2 million rooms were booked over the first four months of 2014, a record for that period of the year.

Granted, there were some pretty good reasons for many of those stays: Last winter was particularly snowy, leading to a lot of schedule disruptions, and new FAA rules on pilot fatigue led airlines large and small to cancel flights during the period.

The extra demand brings bad news and good news: Room prices are going up, but at the same time hotel owners are taking advantage of the sudden surge in stays to boost their offerings. One new hotel, Denver’s Woolley’s Classic Suites, opened in May with the goal of bringing a luxury brand close to the airport.

The New York Times notes that a number of hotels near airports, such as the Grand Hyatt DFW and the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport, have received major facelifts in recent months, aiming to bring in more than traditionally captive audiences.

“The look of the space is much more modern. Sometimes you go to an airport hotel, and they’re all the same,” Hilton Chicago O’Hare General Manager Michael McGilligan told the Times. “We started to see a little bit of momentum, and we thought if we could get people in the door with an updated product, they’d be more likely to come back.”

With hotels in urban centers often booked to the gills, airport hotels may offer an alternative for regular travelers who simply need a place to stay.

But that isn’t necessarily leading to a ton of new facilities, even if average daily rates are on the rise. STR notes that, as of April, just 43 new airport hotels had opened nationwide in the past three years.

So what’s your take? Would you stay—or encourage your members to stay—at an airport hotel as an alternative to the center-of-the-action experience that comes with your traditional business trip? Offer up your take in the comments.

Woolley’s Classic Suites, located near Denver's airport, hopes to bring luxury to the airport hotel concept. (handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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