by Morton D. Rosenbaum | August 01, 2005

To hear any industry pundit tell it, hotel occupancy numbers have never looked so good at least not in this century. This year’s Trends in the Hotel Industry report from San Francisco-based PKF Consulting calculated a 67.5 percent national occupancy average for 2004, with an expected hike to 69.4 by the end of this year, a mere half percent beneath 2000’s record-breaking peak.
    Even amid the much-touted turnaround, however, some of America’s strongest cities continue to await their big rebound. Whether because of staggeringly large hotel portfolios, still fledgling downtown revitalizations or myriad other reasons, these 10 destinations  remain hungry for your business and have infrastructure and character enough to prove worthy of it. Best of all, the price is right.

Occupancy: 60.5%
Average Daily Rate: $75.76

Why the low occupancy: Although Atlanta has the country’s fourth largest convention center, this city has not recovered from its early 21st-century slump the way its competitors have. According to Paul Breslin, managing director of the Sheraton Atlanta, the chief culprit is the city’s plenitude of rooms approximately 93,000 blowing other hotel-heavy cities out of the water.
    David McAuley, director of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Washington, D.C., office, notes a more nagging problem. “Atlanta has all the infrastructure of a first-tier city,” he says, “but people think it lacks the destination appeal of the first tier. That’s about to change.” Indeed, occupancy rebounded this year by five percentage points.

Why you should go: Atlanta’s downtown is anchored by the Centennial Olympic Park, which is home to both the revamped CNN World Center and the mammoth Georgia World Congress Center. Just a stone’s throw away are 12,000 hotel rooms, including a Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Omni and Westin with more than 1,000 guest rooms each.
    Midtown just a quick MARTA train ride or a $7 cab ride north is in full bloom, too. The shops, lounges and restaurants opening along Peachtree Street are putting the buzz over the famously haute Buckhead district to shame. Nonbelievers should check out restaurants like the spicy, festive Mitra for proof.

What’s coming up: This November, the much-anticipated Georgia Aquarium will touch down on Centennial Olympic Park. With 110,000 fish and sea mammals in residence, the facility promises to be the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Butting up against the aquarium by 2007 will be the relocated and revamped World of Coca-Cola museum.
    In midtown, the 138-acre Atlantic Station, a “village” with retail, entertainment, residential and professional components, is expected to open phase one by October of this year. 

Bonus points: For years, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has ranked as the world’s busiest. No wonder, then, that airfare can be a steal. Once attendees have landed, they can shuttle from the airport to their hotel rooms, less than 12 miles away, for a mere $1.75. And with the generally reasonable fees for attractions in this city, attendance at a Braves game can cost as little as $15.