Posted: 10:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, 2013

Boost in SF economy evident in lack of hotel vacancies

Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco (file)
Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco (file)

By John Fowler

KTVU.com

SAN FRANCISCO —

Organizers promised that the America's Cup would boost San Francisco's economy and after a lackluster start, the promise appeared to be coming true Monday as available hotel rooms in San Francisco were in serious demand.

 

Lucia Tuthill was in San Francisco Monday to see her son, but found a big surprise when she tried to book a hotel a week ago.

“Prices were exorbitant, very, very high,” said Tuthill.

She settled for a room in Hayes Valley, five miles from the Embarcadero where she’d hoped to stay. 

“Even at the higher rates there was no availability, we’re very lucky but we’re very far away,” said Tuthill.

Crowds cluttered San Francisco’s waterfront Monday, some for the America’s Cup races, many others for Oracle Week and other conferences.

Washington, DC-attorney Stuart Sirkin was in the city Monday for a tax conference, and he wanted to extend his stay. 

“Everything was booked totally, when I tried about a week and a half ago,” said Sirkin.

A difficult situation to believe when there's 215 hotels in the city, equalling about 33,000 rooms in total.

The Hotel Vitale on the Embarcadero had a “handful” of one-bed rooms available Monday afternoon for $599 per night. The Fairmont Hotel, where some America’s Cup and Oracle Week attendees were staying, was fully booked up Monday, as were the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero’s 802 rooms. 

“It’s a bit of a challenge with America’s Cup, as it would be if the World Series or playoffs or any of those things came around,” said Hyatt Regency Embarcadero General Manager David Lewin. 

A reporter asked Lewin what the hotel would tell a guest who wanted to extend a stay in order to see more races.

“You’d tell him you don’t have any rooms, and if they’re insistent and say ‘I’m not going to check out’ then technically, you can’t evict them,” explained Lewin, saying that to kick out the guest would be in violation of state law. 

He added that scenario exemplified in his answer hadn’t occurred that week “yet.”

In that case, the law allows hotels to charge their maximum rate. 

“If you’re booking a hotel room at the last minute and the hotels are virtually sold out, it’s the equivalent of buying an airline flight at the last minute,” said San Francisco Hotel Council Executive Director Kevin Carroll.

Carroll told KTVU that guests spend more money outside the hotels then inside, and that the America’s Cup has created a significant economic boon for San Francisco, even if it wasn’t quite what supporters had originally hoped. 

“The race isn’t over,” said Carroll. “We’re all pulling for Team Oracle to extend this as far as it can.”

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