South Florida hotels didn't get Spring break boost

The peak of tourism season produced a valley this year, with room rates down by double digits and vacationers staying home.

A new report from Smith Travel Research shows March was a disaster for hotels – room rates dropped 18 to 22 percent compared to a year ago, while occupancy either fell or stayed flat.

The statistics end any hope of South Florida's busy tourism season rescuing hotels from a global economic crisis that has travelers taking shorter trips and insisting on bargains.

But a new report predicts a quick turnaround, with the tourism decline bottoming out this year and Miami-Dade's room rates growing a healthy 7 percent in 2010.

"Miami historically has recovered nicely out of these things," said Gregory Rumpel, a vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, which produced the report.

As the economy recovers, travelers "may not take that European vacation out of the gate . . . But they're taking a holiday. And they'll probably head to the sun," Rumpel said.

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