Hotel assocation: Occupancy at Palm Beach County hotels matching pre-recession demand

Season means snowbirds flock to Palm Beach County.
 
At Nick and Johnnies Restaurant in Palm Beach, manager Tammy Grimason says the migration began early.
 
"Within the last week or two, everything's been picking up. A lot more people are coming back. The streets are getting busier, so we're excited," said Grimason.
 
The Palm Beach County Hotel & Lodging Association says the demand for hotel rooms is matching pre-recession demand. That's a goal four years in the making. The association president, Manny O'Neill, is also the DoubleTree by Hilton manager in Palm Beach Gardens. 
 
"You know, for us, season never ended," said O'Neill. "We've had a strong September, October. We're far ahead of pace, what we call pace, which means we have more business on the books than we had the last year."
 
O'Neill attributes the rise in hotel customers to a couple things. An improving economy, and a more aggressive marketing, because hotels have money again to pay for it
 
"We're seeing pleasure a lot more, and we're seeing business pick up in our long-term stay hotel," said Carlos Cardenas, housekeeping manager for Marriott Springhill Suites Boca Raton. 
 
In the depths of the recession, O'Neill says hotel occupancy rates in Palm Beach County dropped to the low 60s. This year, he's projecting rates close to the low 80s.
 
"We're expecting to fill up later this month," Cardenas said. 
 
The association says local hotels are hiring. A couple hundred people are waiting on the results of a job fair the association held today.
 
Grimason is waiting for the full-blown restaurant season to start after Thanksgiving. In the meantime, she's accepting the early birds with open arms.
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