Transit strike: Boon or bane?

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As often happens, the hotel business finds itself caught up in a situation that's out of its control but which can cost it money. In this case, it's the New York City transit strike that has the potential to mar an otherwise fabulous year for the Big Apple lodging industry. The strike, which started in earnest yesterday and seems to have no swift resolution in sight, has so far had limited negative effect on the city's $24-billion tourism industry, but that could change if the walkout continues past the Christmas holiday.

Most Manhattan hotels have experienced a ying-and-yang effect as a result of the strike. On one hand, some hotels have reported a few cancellations of reservations. In addition, some food and beverage outlets at Midtown properties are closed or working under limited hours or menus because many workers aren't able to make it into the city. At the same time, some Manhattan office workers (at least the well-heeled ones) have booked rooms at hotels to avoid the messy commute to the suburbs. Also working in the hotels̢ۉ㢠favor is the fact that the few days before Christmas is traditionally a period of low occupancies (typically around 55 percent versus 90 percent and above in the first couple of weeks of December).

Of course, the worry among hoteliers is that the strike will continue past Christmas and threaten the New Year's holiday, which is always a high-occupancy and high-rate period.

Unfortunately, Manhattan hoteliers can't do much about the situation except sit back and wait for a settlement.

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