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Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympics boosted hotel occupancy

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The 2002 Winter Olympic Games were certainly good for Utah’s tourism sector, according to recent statistics.

Salt Lake’s occupancy rate of 90.8 per cent in February, nearly 23 percentage points higher than 2001’s rate of 68 per cent, outpaces the nation’s top 25 markets, including Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego and Atlanta – all cities that suffered year-over-year declines in occupancy in February.

According to the Rocky Mountain Lodging report, occupancy rates at Salt Lake hotels ended the year at 64.1 per cent, up 2.3 percentage points over the previous years.

And average room rates for Salt Lake hotels were up $15.26 over 2001 at $89.86.

The rates are significant since the hotel industry is describing 2002 as one of its worst years ever.

Dianne Binger, president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Deseret News newspaper that it booked 537,791 room nights for Salt Lake County hotels last year.

This will add an estimated $245 million to Utah’s economy in coming years.

The bureau’s convention sales team booked 272 groups in Salt Lake County hotels for 2002, 2003, 2004 and as far out as 2012.

This attracted more than 228,000 delegates and will contribute more than $177 million to the local economy.

"The Olympics certainly were an incredible boost to our industry," Binger told the Deseret News.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, hotel occupancies in 2002 averaged 59 per cent, the lowest in 31 years.

Salt Lake hotels averaged 64 per cent. However, studies show that convention goers still prefer Las Vegas, Chicago, New York City, Dallas and Orlando to Salt Lake.

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