The International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus recently found that for more than 60 percent of CVBs, sales leads and confirmed bookings in the first quarter of 2003 were the same as—or better than—they were in the early months of 2002. Associations were the stars, with 43 percent of the CVBs reporting increased association business over last year. Citywides are 33 percent higher, and corporate leads have picked up 22 percent over last year, respondents said. Respondents to the study, which was conducted April 22–30, generally reflected IACVB’s membership, although most were U.S.–based.

Unfortunately, news from abroad is generally not so bright. A recent study from PKF Consulting found occupancies in London dropping below 60 percent in April, the first time that has happened during the month of April since PKF began doing monthly reports. This year’s 59.8 percent occupancy level is the worst ever—the next closest low point was 61.9 percent, in 1991. The decline is partly because of a dearth of visitors from the U.S. and Japan, both of which had double-digit declines in trips to the city in April. Room rates in London also dropped 10.6 percent. Outside the capital, occupancies only dipped slightly, and room rates, while down, didn’t take the hit they did in London.

And the UK isn’t alone. The European edition of the Hotel Benchmark Survey by Deloitte & Touche findings reveal that the continent as a whole is seeing larger declines in revenue per available room this spring than it did post-9/11. RevPAR fell by 22 percent in Europe. Belgium and the Netherlands lost the most, with 28 percent declines; the U.K. fell 25 percent; and Germany and Italy fell 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Amsterdam and Paris reported RevPAR declines of more than 30 percent, as did Budapest, Copenhagen, Geneva, Istanbul, Jerusalem, London, and Warsaw. German hotels have seen RevPARs drop steadily for nine consecutive months, according to the Deloitte & Touche survey. Again, a decrease in U.S. visitors, exacerbated by the weak U.S. dollar against the euro, is to blame for much of European hoteliers’ woes this spring, along with the war in Iraq and the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which has dampened the Asian influx to Europe.

But still, Europe had some bright spots: Dublin report a 15 percent growth in RevPAR, while Frankfurt, Gothenburg, and Vienna also reported double-digit growth in the first quarter, mainly because of large meetings, conventions, and sporting events in April. The Deloitte & Touche study found that hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv had dismal, 20 percent occupancies in April, another fallout from the war with Iraq and continuing terrorist attacks. Southern Europe, though, showed the smallest decreases generally, with Athens, Barcelona, Madrid, and Milan all showing RevPAR increases over 2002.

While the Middle East enjoyed a greater than 10 percent increase overall in international visitors in 2002 over 2001, RevPAR dove almost 23 percent in the first quarter of 2003, as the war with Iraq began to scare visitors into postponing or canceling trips to that area, according to a Deloitte & Touche review of hotel performance in the Middle East and Africa. South Africa, according to the survey, is experiencing double-digit RevPAR increases over the first quarter of 2002 in 23 of the 24 markets surveyed. While occupancies maintained their 2002 status, room rates increased an average of 19 percent.

While information on the state of the industry in Australia and New Zealand isn’t readily available, those countries remain concerned about the impact of SARS, the lingering effects of the Iraq war, and international terrorism. The Australian and New Zealand Hotel Conference, scheduled for June 11 at the Westin Sydney, will examine recent trends in air lift, hotel markets, and predictions for the remainder of 2003 and 2004.