Sorry we're booked, may become an all-too-familiar refrain from hotel reservations clerks in the coming months. With very few new hotel properties under construction and domestic and international business travel growing rapidly, travelers can expect hotel rooms to be hard to come by through the end of the year. Indeed, according to Coopers & Lybrand LLP, the industry's occupancy rate is 65.6 percent, just slightly below last year's high of 65.8 percent.
"If you are traveling in big cities, expect both unfavorable availability and rate issues," says Bjorn Hanson, industry chairman of Coopers & Lybrand's hospitality consulting division.
Obtaining a hotel room in Boston or the Big Apple will probably be the most difficult for travelers. However, rooms are in short supply in most major cities around the country, cautions Hanson. Also keep in mind that the crush is at its worst Monday through Wednesday.
With many cities running at or near 100 percent occupancy several nights a week, Hanson says, business travelers should also expect to "get bowled over with higher rates," particularly when making last-minute reservations. On average, room rates are up 5.7 percent this year.
To get the best price, ask about weekend, group or special packages. What's more, to make sure you get a room, Hanson says, be sure to reserve early.