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Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it after Hurricane Irma, industry analysts estimated.

Meanwhile, Orlando and Miami area hotels led the nation with a double-digit spike in hotel room use in March, the highest level at least six years, according to a report released Thursday from research firm STR, which tracks the hospitality industry.

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Having Easter come two weeks earlier than 2017 filled hotel rooms in March, and Tampa Bay hotels saw a gain of 8.3 percent in revenue per available room. That’s more than twice the national average, said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of lodging insights for STR, which is based in Hendersonville, Tenn.

But Orlando did even better, recording the third-largest increase in the country with an 11.5 percent increase in revenue per available room. And Miami saw the nation’s biggest gain with a year-to-year increase of 18.2 percent.

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Despite the gangbuster numbers in March, the Tampa Bay hotel market overall saw a 0.5 decrease in the quarter as a whole compared to last year. Freitag said this likely is due to the unusual demand for hotel rooms in January 2017 when Tampa hosted the College Football Playoff National Championship weekend.

"When you have a big event like that we see a great bounce, but then the next year it looks like a big drop," Freitag said. "But these are really strong numbers. The underlying strength is always the economy. If the economy is strong, you have business travel and group travel and leisure travel."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

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