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It figures: Skating boosts hotel revenues

Some of the first hard data on whether hosting the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships lifted Spokane’s economy last month are in — and the numbers are up.

Overnight visitors to Spokane County in January shelled out nearly $8 million on hotel and motel rooms, almost $2.2 million more than the same month the year before, according to Smith Travel Research Inc., which regularly files reports on hotel and motel trends in Spokane County and elsewhere.

“We’re just ecstatic. We couldn’t ask for anything better for our community,” said Harry Sladich, president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In January, typically the regional industry’s weakest month, Spokane County’s hoteliers enjoyed nearly 16 percent higher room demand over the same time last year, the report shows.

Overall, hotels last month billed out a whopping 101,220 room nights — a 13,829 bump from January 2006, according to the Smith figures.

Hotel managers credit the eight-day, national figure-skating competition with attracting thousands of affluent fans and a cadre of participants to town.

Average room rates were up nearly 20 percent over January of 2006, which contributed to a 38 percent jump in overall room revenues, the report shows.

“It’s a great story for Spokane,” said Dean Feldmeier, general manager of the downtown Doubletree Hotel, which housed the athletes and the crew that created the Convention Center ice rink.

Feldmeier said he was so proud of his hotel’s performance he immediately “flipped” copies to peers at sister hotels in Pearce, King and Clark counties. “I told them: ‘We’re catching up,’” he said with a chuckle.

Occupancy at the Doubletree and its five, big competitors shot up about “50 percent,” said Feldmeier, who routinely tracks all the properties’ performances.

However, fewer guests stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott last month, said Pam Alfaro, general manager. The hotel, which is across Division Street from the Convention Center, required a two-night minimum stay during the competition. But higher room rates helped the bottom line.

“So while our occupancy was off a touch, our revenue was not,” Alfaro said.

Cheri Hanson, sales director for the Red Lion Inn at the Park, said January was a “great month.”

“Occupancy was up and we definitely saw increases on the restaurant side,” Hanson said.

At the Davenport Hotel and Tower, rooms were sold out five nights in a row, said Matt Jensen, director of sales and marketing. As the event’s headquarters hotel, the Davenport provided several complimentary rooms for some of the skating entourage.

“Even with the concessions we made for skating, it still exceeded our expectations in what we’d hoped to do in January,” Jensen said. “We’re ready for another one.”

Feldmeier said despite the higher demand, it’s important to keep the occupancy rates in perspective.

“The actual occupancy rate here was 49 percent and it was nearly 60 percent in King County,” he said. “So we still have a little ways to go.”