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Hoteliers' shared goal: An LI trade group

Michael Garfinkel, of Old Bethpage, moves luggage at

Michael Garfinkel, of Old Bethpage, moves luggage at a Plainview hotel. Two hotel groups on Long Island are trying to create a trade organization to represent the Island's lodging industry. A previous organization disbanded in 2010. (Aug. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Chris Ware

Two local hotel operators are trying to form a trade association to lobby on behalf of the Long Island lodging industry, a $600 million a year business that hasn't yet recovered fully from the recession.

Mike Johnston, who was general manager of the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale for eight years and ran a previous association of local hoteliers, said he hopes the new group will ultimately include restaurants, catering halls, amusement parks and other leisure businesses.

He joins forces with Donald Monti, a partner with Johnston in the Concorde Hotel Group Llc, a hotel management and consulting company that operates the Residence Inn in Plainview.

The association would also provide members with news, research, networking opportunities and group purchases of supplies and services like workers' compensation insurance, Johnston said.

The previous hotel trade group, the Long Island Hotel & Lodging Association, disbanded in 2010 when several key officers left the Island for jobs elsewhere, said Johnston. Other members often were too busy to attend meetings as the lodging industry struggled in the recession.

The Island's hotel room occupancy rates averaged 62.4 percent for the first half of this year, down just slightly from 62.6 percent a year earlier but still well below the 67.47 percent average in the first half of 2008, according to figures compiled for the Long Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau and Sports Commission.

The bureau's president, R. Moke McGowan, said hotels and restaurants that depended heavily on business travelers were hardest-hit by the recession.

While occupancy rates still haven't recovered fully, McGowan said, the profit picture looks better because hoteliers aren't having to discount daily rates quite as much to fill up rooms. Room rates averaged $121.26 in the first half of this year, up from $117.25 a year earlier. "At least they're getting the [room] rates back into the range that helps them start to make some profit again."

But the average was $125.60 in the first half of 2008, said McGowan.

Helping the industry, said Johnston, is that construction of new hotels is slow in most areas of the country -- New York City being an exception -- so that the supply of rooms isn't further outstripping demand. "Owners have to be smart and know where to place hotels," he said.

The Island has about 18,000 hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast rooms, according to the 2010 federal census.

Johnston and Monti, who is also founder and chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, a real estate development company in Plainview, said they're planning an email blast in coming days announcing an organizational meeting Sept. 12 for what would be called the Long Island Hospitality Association and would be a nonprofit corporation, probably with a small part-time staff to start.

The Island's leisure business, including hotels, wineries, shopping outlets, beaches, amusement parks and restaurants, generated $5.1 billion in revenues in 2008 but the figure fell by 13 percent in 2009, according to figures compiled for the Empire State Development Corp. Revenues recovered somewhat in 2010, to $4.6 billion, and increased again last year to $4.8 billion, according to the latest figures. An estimated 13 percent or $624 million of that was for hotel rooms.

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