For the first time since April 2008, Long Island hotel occupancy rates in December edged slightly higher compared to the previous year.
R. Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he had heard from members of "an increase in business activity in December."
McGowan attributed some of the increase to holiday-related programs but said, "We really can't put a finger on it -- just little upticks here and there." He also pointed out that year-over-year comparison is to December 2008, when "the floor had just fallen out" of the economy.
McGowan also noted that two other important measures of the local tourism economy remained down in December, average daily room rates and revenue per available room, according to data compiled by Smith Travel Research. "Unfortunately, we've not seen rates this low since 2003," McGowan said. And overall, McGowan called 2009 a "very bad year."
Still, Jeff Higley, a Smith Travel Research spokesman, said Long Island was performing better than the national average. Since there were six more hotels on Long Island last month than there were two years ago, "hotels have to feel good that they were able to absorb that supply and show an increase in occupancy," he said.
Among other indicators, consumers were apparently buying more houses and vehicles by the fall of 2009.
But other signs pointed to continued weakness: Bankruptcies and foreclosure filings were up. And most importantly, the local economy continued to lose private jobs compared to December 2008.
According to Moody's Economy.com, which analyzes job and industrial production data, Long Island fell into the "in recession" category in October 2008 and had inched out of it by July 2009. Declines have slowed enough that the region is now considered to be "moderating."
Newsday periodically tracks economic indicators in this Long Island Economic Snapshot.