After post-Sept. 11 slowdown, New York hotel prices hit all-time high
NEW YORK – The Days Inn Brooklyn sits on a charmless block in a working-class neighborhood 30 minutes by subway from the nearest tourist spot in Manhattan.Security glass encloses the front desk. Breakfast is packaged commercial pastry, served from a rack in a closet-sized lobby. The clean but drab rooms overlook train tracks.Everything about the place says budget travel, except the price. On New Year’s Eve, rooms are going for $229 per night.The hefty bill is no fluke. Hotel prices set wallet-busting records in New York City in 2005 after a long, slow recovery from the 2001 terrorist attacks.The average daily price of a room in the city hit $292 in November, according to the hospitality industry analysis firm PKF Consulting. Figures for December weren’t yet available, but the city is a lock to break its previous record yearlong average of $237 per night, set in 2000.Prices were high in every corner of town, from the noisy motels jammed into industrial neighborhoods near Kennedy Airport to the palaces near Central Park.If the cost of a room deterred some people from visiting, it didn’t show.An estimated 22 million nights were sold at city hotels in 2005, according to city tourism officials, surpassing the 21.4 million last year and the 19.9 million in the year before the terrorist attacks.Even the $14,000-per-night presidential suite at the Mandarin Oriental, New York was occupied about 75 percent of the time in 2005.”A-list celebrities,” explained hotel spokeswoman Tiana Kartadinata. “New York has a lot of premieres.”New York has never been a cheap place to stay, but today’s high prices are remarkable, considering where the city has been.Tourism dipped significantly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Hotels dropped their prices to an average $198 per night in 2002, and still the city drew millions fewer tourists than it had two years earlier.Yet, the crisis also prompted a national outpouring of love for the damaged city that may have helped fuel a comeback.”I think people, for the first time, saw New Yorkers unfiltered,” said Christyne Nicholas, president of NYC & Company, the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.”A lot of the stereotypes went away after Sept. 11 of us being rude and obnoxious and unwelcoming,” she said. “For the first time, our police officers and our firefighters were a tourist attraction.”There has also been a nationwide recovery. Hotel prices across the country fell after the terror attacks, but grew 4 percent in 2004 and about 5 percent in 2005, according to Smith Travel Research. The average U.S. hotel room now costs $90.80.In New York, simple laws of supply and demand may have made a difference too.In recent years, the city’s ultra-hot real estate market has prompted a rash of conversions of old hotels into luxury condominiums – most notably, the famed 805-room Plaza Hotel near Central Park.The overall number of hotel rooms in Manhattan has dwindled by about 1,500 in the past two years, officials said.Some relief may be on the way. About 5,000 new rooms are expected to open in the city in the coming years, mostly at medium-priced chain hotels being constructed slightly off the beaten path.”I think we need 1,000 to 1,500 extra rooms per year, just to keep up with the expanding economy,” said PKF senior vice president John Fox.For those travelers on a tight budget, now may be the time to visit. Prices will drop significantly in the next few months as winter sets in and holiday visitors clear out.For those willing to travel in January and February there are some nice rooms to be had at three-star hotels in Manhattan for relatively bargain basement prices: around $160 per night.But don’t expect the discounts to last long.At the posh Mandarin Oriental, which opened in the new Time Warner building overlooking Central Park two years ago, the base rate for a room will rise to $725 in 2006. On opening night, the same quarters could be had for $595.For those with smaller wallets, there is always the Days Inn Brooklyn.