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Area hotels nearly filled during busy summer

Sunshine and a calendar packed with conventions and meetings pushed the Buffalo Niagara hotel occupancy rates to almost 90 percent in July, topping the national average for the month.

In Niagara Falls, 88.7 percent of rooms were filled, and in Buffalo the rate was 84 percent, both far above the 69.9 percent national average, according Smith Travel Research.

"I hope it'll pique the interest of future hotel developers; there's a strong market here for hotel and tourism," said John Percy, president and CEO of Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

Brisk business during the summer months is the norm, but the local hotel industry is experiencing an increase over last July, the report showed. Niagara Falls was up 2 percent and Buffalo saw 1 percent spike in rooms filled.

"We did see an increase for that month with new business accounts, new people experiencing the hotel," said James Burke, general manager of Adam's Mark Hotel. Burke said this July's occupancy rate was 5 percent higher than July 2010.

The dry, warm summer and a higher number of events attracted out-of-town visitors to the area, fueling the increase. In Buffalo, there were corporate business meetings, New York State Bar Exam testing, a summer hockey tournament, a national garden festival, all in July.

"It's our business to bring groups to our community," said Mike Even, Visit Buffalo Niagara's vice president of sales. The summer vacation season, the local tourist attractions and the conventions and meetings "all came together and did what they're supposed to do bring people to our community."

Visit Buffalo Niagara and the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. said they have been successful in attracting groups and other events to the area.

"And we've got a very aggressive plan for next year," Even said. "Hopefully the circumstances will be the same -- things coming together to have another July like this one next year."

The NTCC's efforts last year to lure visitors from Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland and Pittsburgh resulted in 46 percent conversion rate of visitors from those cities, Percy said.

Even said there's been growth in the amateur sports marketing, and work will be done to lure more of those events.

While occupancy rates rise in the summer, they drop after Labor Day. Burke said the downtime is when renovations and improvements are made to get the most of the peak season.