HENDERSONVILLE, Tennessee—The deadly ice storms that blanketed Kentucky on 27 January left thousands of households without food, water, power and, consequently, a place to stay warm. For those who didn’t have a generator or alternative source of heat, they were able to take advantage of their local hotels that did. From the occupancy spike in the later part of January and first week of February, it’s evident that hotels were full, not only with local residents, but also with out-of-state utility workers and volunteers.
STR samples more than 73 percent of the available rooms in Kentucky, so we’re able to get a good grasp on historical performance. Occupancy rates for the state normally are low this time of year, averaging 41.4 percent in January and 50.6 percent in February for the past three years. Comparing 27 January to 7 February 2009 performance to the corresponding days in 2008, there was a 31-percent increase in occupancy, a 0.4-percent decline in average daily rate and a 30.5-percent revenue-per-available-room growth.
Western parts of the state, which are included in the Kentucky Area market, were hit hardest by the storms. From 1 January to 7 February, there was a 12.9-percent increase in occupancy. Though not as significant, there were also occupancy increases for the Louisville and Lexington markets of 5.6 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
One positive trend, which we also witnessed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, is that hotels were not price gouging. For the same time period, the Kentucky Area market was the only market with ADR growth, up slightly at 3.4 percent. It’s good to know that when people are down and out that the hotel industry doesn’t try and take advantage of the situation.
Almost three weeks later, some households still are without power, but with help from neighboring states, things are getting back to normal. Hopefully, Kentucky will be able to sustain the increased occupancy, but this time from actual visitors.