Hotel rooms were available in Augusta during Masters Week, but local tourism officials will not know whether vacancy rates were higher than last year until mid-May.
An increase would be the third year in a row hotel occupancies have increased. Officials with the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau, whose figures only go back to 2006, said occupancy increased from 89 percent from that year to 91.2 percent in 2007.
Barry White, the president and CEO of the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he expects statistics from 2008 to be comparable. The organization's consultant, Smith Travel Research, will analyze the information at the end of the month.
On a month-by-month basis, Mr. White said, hotel revenues haven't fluctuated much in 15 years.
"There's a lot more demand than we have hotel rooms for that week," he said. "That means more people are in town."
Based on anecdotal evidence, vacancies seem to be most prevalent in the budget and midpriced hotel sector, which has seen brisk growth in new hotel construction during the past few years.
The assistant manager at Augusta Budget Inn on Broad Street attributed the 60-room motel's vacancies during Masters Week to new hotels entering the market.
At Knights Inn, another budget hotel, desk clerk Jessica Kiener acknowledged having "vacancies on a few days."
"Last year, I don't think we had any," she said.
This year, the 107-room hotel on Boy Scout Road had two to 12 vacancies during the day through Masters Week. There were no overnight vacancies, however, because all rooms were booked by the end of each night from walk-ins, Ms. Kiener said.
Not all small hotels had empty rooms.
"We were booked from Sunday to Saturday," said Nafeesa Young, the desk manager for the 59-room Days Inn & Suites on Washington Road.
Top-tier hotels, such as those that have in-house restaurants and lounges and offer shuttle service to the course, generally fare better because their clientele is often corporate accounts.
"The top-end hotels seemed to be the hotels that were filling up first," said Marty Matfess, the vice president of the Newport Group, which manages 606 rooms at five area hotels -- the Doubletree Hotel Augusta, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn, Wingate Inn and Hampton Inn.
"Starting last Sunday to this Sunday, we've enjoyed the highest occupancies ever," Mr. Matfess said.
Mr. White said there are roughly 60 hotels in Augusta and Columbia County, which offer about 6,000 rooms to visitors.
In 2007, two new hotels, Value Place and Candlewood Suites, opened. The Hilton Garden Inn opened this year.
"That's about 400 rooms that have opened in the past year," Mr. White said.
Even though new hotels have been added, Mr. White said, there's enough hotel business to go around.
"Obviously, the demand for the event is going to remain constant or grow," he said, "but if you have new hotels, it may take a little time for patrons to learn about those."
Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau did not track Masters Week hotel occupancy until 2006. It began compiling occupancy rates for the whole month of April in 2003.
YEAR.........APRIL OCCUPANCY %
Source: Smith Travel Research