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Green beer and St. Patrick’s Day hotel results
March 16 2012

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, which means cities throughout the U.S. can expect more revelers at parades and other celebrations. But how does the calendar shift affect hotels?

By Patrick Mayock

St. Patrick’s Day is my sister’s favorite holiday. She loves everything about it: the green beer, the parades, the green beer, the raucous crowds—and did I mention the green beer? The girl celebrates every year, rain or shine, and takes the day off work as if it was a government-recognized holiday.

But my sister is not like most Americans. When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekday, most of us go about our business, dodging the most enthusiastic revelers who stumble out into the middle of the road as we drive studiously into work.

This year, however, is different. The day of my patron saint falls on a Saturday, which means most everyone—from my sister on the more ardent end of the spectrum to, well, the rest of us on the other—can partake in the day’s festivities. Call it the perfect storm of chronologically-fueled neo-nationalist debauchery. 

St. Patrick’s Day only falls on a Saturday twice or thrice a decade, so I was curious how the calendar shift would impact hotels. (Even a drunkard needs a bed to rest his intoxicated head.) With the help of our good friends at our parent company STR, I pulled data from the last two St. Patrick’s Days that fell on Saturdays (2001 and 2007) as well as last year (when the day fell on Thursday) for comparison. 

The general data doesn’t seem to suggest any discernible gains when St. Patrick’s Day falls on Saturday. Increases in average daily rate and revenue per available room were moderate, while occupancy was actually down. You could argue that increases in 2011 (the benchmark year when the holiday fell on Thursday) were higher-than-average given the more favorable comparisons from 2010, when the industry was still struggling to work out of a recession, but that still doesn’t explain the lack of a notable shift in performance for 2001 and 2007.

A better explanation is that the effects of St. Patrick’s Day are minimized when spread over the country as a whole. Not every city celebrates with ticker-tape parades and festivals drawing in the hundreds of thousands. For many, 17 March is like any other day.

For those who do, however, St. Patrick’s Day provides a very clear spike in performance—although again it’s difficult to track a noticeable shift when the day falls on a Saturday.

The moral of the story: I guess there are a lot more people like my sister out there who head to the big celebrations regardless of the day of the week. To them I say, Sláinte!

Now on to the usual goodies …

Stat of the week
$55,000: The initial fine for hoteliers if they do not have an ADA-compliant pool lift. Each subsequent fine is $110,000.

The new requirement was supposed to have gone into effect Thursday, but the White House issued a 60-day extension that will push the compliance date for the pool-lift requirement to 15 May.

Quote of the week
“Customers book when they really want. … It’s just being realistic about what consumers do.”
Cyril Ranque, senior VP of global lodging for Expedia, commenting on the surge of last-minute bookings in “Distribution experts share key to success.”

The comment came during a general panel at last week’s International Hotel Investment Forum, during which executives from Expedia, Google, InterContinental Hotels Group and Groupon Travel discussed the distribution space. Much of that discussion focused on the surge of last-minute bookings, which many hoteliers, including IHG’s Andrew Rubinacci on the panel, decry as a cheap tactic that provides deeply discounted product to brand-agnostic guests.

Ranque, who was notably miffed by Rubinacci’s comments, said “last-minute” and “discounted” are not synonymous. Hoteliers who view them that way are completely missing the boat. And I agree.

Consumers, armed with smartphones and other mobile devices, are becoming on-the-go creatures more prone to book when and where they feel. If that’s at the last possible minute, then hoteliers need to make sure their inventory is available. Pricing decisions within those channels is a completely different conversation. But to say, “We’re not going to offer our rooms at last-minute channels” is a flawed strategy that essentially cuts out an ever-growing segment of travelers. 

Comment of the week
“Thank you for the specificity on the ADAA (sic). It is critical for hoteliers and for meeting planners to understand the compliance issues. I do wish that instead of the focus on the cost to be in compliance, there would be a focus on the people who will benefit from compliance, who will be able to be accommodated. Our industry (hospitality) forgets the markets that this benefits. And with many aging boomers still attending meetings and traveling for biz (sic) and leisure, it's just smart.”
Commenter Joan Eisenstodt responding to “New ADA changes could prove costly.”

Excellent, excellent point, Joan. The majority of the discussion (our own reporting included) has focused on costs and the logistical headaches associated with compliance. But you’re absolutely right. The bottom line is that these regulations are designed to make for a hotel stay more accommodating for guests of ALL ability levels. If hoteliers keep that end guest in mind, the process might become a bit easier to swallow.

Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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