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LONDON-The London hotel industry suffered a plunge in occupancy levels and room rates in September. According to the first performance figures for the UK hotel industry since the 11 September terrorist attacks, released by PKF’s hotel consultancy services, occupancy levels were down 17.2% on 2000, room rates were down 6.6% there was a drop in rooms yield of 22.7%.

The performance of regional hotels was a little more encouraging with only a 1.7% drop in occupancy and a 1.5% increase in room rate year-on-year.

Although room occupancy levels in London have been falling since the beginning of 2001, largely as a result of the downturn in the US economy, the further plunge in occupancy levels experienced since 11 September is directly attributable to the fall off in US visitors in the aftermath of the atrocities. The number of hotel rooms occupied by American visitors during the whole month dropped by 45.5% although the percentage fall after 11 September is likely to be much higher.

There was also a 39% drop in the number of rooms occupied by Japanese visitors although the domestic market was unaffected and other markets were broadly in line with the prevailing trends throughout this year.

Melvin Gold, managing director of hotel consultancy services at PKF, said: ‘While London hotels have suffered over the last few months from the combination of the US downturn and the foot-and-mouth outbreak, the events of 11 September have caused an additional drop of around 10% in occupancy levels. October performance figures are therefore likely to be even worse as they will reflect a full month of travellers’ fearful reactions to 11 September.’

Gold said hoteliers were discounting in order to fill empty rooms. ‘September and October are traditionally the strongest months of the year for London hotels,’ he said. ‘But the combination of the impact of 11 September on travel and tourism and global economic downturn means that 2001 will be remembered by London hoteliers as a year when the only certainty was uncertainty.’

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