FORT LAUDERDALE, FL-De-emphasizing its spring-break image and broadening the appeal to touring families, business travelers and conventions have been crucial in energizing the local hospitality market, reports the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In one recent month, the hotel occupancy rate in Broward County climbed to 67.2%, a jump of 6.7 percentage points over the like month of last year, while the average daily room rate reached $72.17, up 6.9% from the same 1999 period.

All this activity was in the midst of summer in super-hot South Florida. However, recent figures indicate that the region’s tourism season now lasts 11 months of the year, with September the only really slow month and October through Easter the peak period.

Lodging market vitality encouraged Interlink Hospitality Corp. of Dania Beach, FL to start construction of the 233-room Renaissance Fort Lauderdale on the 17th Street Causeway just across from the 150,000-sf Broward County Convention Center. Mark Ellert, Interlink’s president, describes his firm’s $36 million ($154,506 per room) project to as an “infill boutique hotel” that will include 12,000 sf of ballroom and meeting space plus extensive on-site parking when it opens next spring.

Ellert sees the new hotel’s proximity to both the airport and the port as a revenue-generating plus. In one month this summer, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport processed 1.23 million passengers, 13.9% more than in the same year-earlier month.

As for Port Everglades, it is attracting more of the world’s ever-increasing cruise-ship fleets and remains second only to Mami among the top ports in cruise-passenger traffic.

The Fort Lauderdale area’s revenue-generating potential has not been lost on others in the business. A 500-room hotel is in the planning pipeline near the Broward Convention Center, possibly with a Westin flag.

And a little more than five miles away in Hollywood the famous old Diplomat Hotel, closed for the last decade, is undergoing a $600 million renovation that will add 1,060 rooms to the local inventory, as well as 267,000 sf of meeting and exhibit space.

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