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Sandy leads LI hotels to best month in at least 7 years

The Marriott Courtyard in Farmingdale, above, and the

The Marriott Courtyard in Farmingdale, above, and the nearby TownePlace Suites were booked for 1,000 more nights last month than in November 2011, a general manager said. (Sept. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The waves of people in need of lodging during and after superstorm Sandy brought Long Island hotels their best month in years.

November had the highest monthly occupancy rate in Nassau and Suffolk in at least seven years, data from the research firm STR Global show. Hotel occupancy shot up to 85.6 percent last month, a 36.5 percent increase compared to November 2011.

Prices went up, too. The average room rate was $137.21 last month, which was less than the August average of $151.55, but a 15.7 percent jump compared to a year earlier, when the average was $118.63, according to STR Global data.

The Marriott Courtyard and TownePlace Suites hotels in Farmingdale have added workers to deal with a roughly 20 percent surge in business, the hotels' general manager Susan Fierros said Thursday. "We need to remain as staffed right now as we would be in summer months."

In November, the two hotels, which together have 250 rooms, were booked for about 1,000 more nights than a year ago, she said. Displaced families and insurance adjusters are still calling the hotels their temporary home.

"The whole Island is in the same situation," she said. "There's no place for them to go."

Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission, said that hotels first filled up with people seeking refuge from the storm, relief workers and utility crews. Then came residents without power looking for a warm bed and hot shower, and insurance adjusters. Next up, McGowan said, are construction workers for rebuilding efforts.

"Obviously it is all Sandy-related -- it's a definite anomaly," he said. "You can go all the way back, probably to '99 and it still wouldn't be as good as it is now."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security had roughly 4,500 people come to the New York area in early November for relief work. About three-quarters of those stayed in hotels, while the remainder lodged offshore on boats or in college dormitories, FEMA spokeswoman Hannah Vick said.

"Finding hotel rooms was a little bit challenging," Vick said. "We certainly wouldn't want to take away hotel rooms from individuals that needed them -- people that were displaced from their homes."

The Island's hotel properties "came through Sandy fairly well," McGowan said. "You kind of have the good and the bad and the ugly from hurricane Sandy: There is business that takes place that wouldn't normally, and there's a lot of business that didn't take place."

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