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DENVER-The average hotel occupancy rate in April in the Denver area rose to 63.1% in April from 61.7% in April 2001, the first month-over-month increase in 13 months, shows the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report. Co-author of the report, Robert Benton of Denver-based Robert Benton & Associates, admits he is surprised by the increase.

”I thought it would still be down,” Benton tells GlobeSt.com. ”I knew that Downtown would be strong because of all the conventions. But I was surprised by the strength of what happened along the I-25 corridor. They had all been crying the blues.”

The average downtown occupancy rate in April was a whopping 77.8%, compared with 66.6% in April 2001.

The average daily room rate Downtown was $135.19, compared with $121.26 in April 2001, Benton tells GlobeSt.com.

He theorizes that the southeast hotel market may have benefited from overflow from Downtown conventions, which included more than 6,000 neurologists from one convention.

But the Boulder market and the US 36 corridor market between Boulder and Denver continue to suffer, with occupancy rates of 59.7% and 54.7%, respectively.

Those markets are down because of their dependence on the ailing high-tech sector, he notes.

But Benton says it is too early to say if April represents a trend, or one a one-month fluke.

”I did expect the market to start to recover as we got into the summer,” Benton tells GlobeSt.com. ”I did not expect it to recover this quickly.”

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