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Feb. 18--Hotels in the Colorado Springs area had their best January since 1997 with half of the rooms occupied during one of the slowest months of the year, the fifth consecutive monthly increase from the same month a year earlier, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.

The 50 percent occupancy rate for local hotels in January was up from 45.4 percent in January 2015 and the highest for the month since local hotels sold 53.7 percent of their rooms in January 1997. Hotel occupancy reaches its low point for the year in December and increases only slightly in January. The region's occupancy rate for 2015 averaged 64.8 percent, the highest annual total since 1999 with the percentage of rooms filled increasing in 10 of 12 months from the same month a year earlier with small declines in February and August.

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Springs hotels also were able to fill those rooms at a higher rate -- the average room rate in January rose 3.9 percent from January 2015 to $86.38. The average room rate charged by local hotels has increased every month but September since September 2014 and hit a record $112.98 in July.

Doug Price, CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said much of the gain came from conventions and meetings attracting more participants since few travelers come to the Pikes Peak region in January for a vacation. He said the forecast for the rest of the year remains strong.

Both full-service and limited-service hotels reported gains in occupancy rate in January with occupancy in full-service hotels rising to 50 percent from 44.9 percent a year earlier and limited-service properties increasing to 50.1 percent from 46.1 percent in January 2015. The average room rate for full-service hotels in January was up 1.8 percent to $92.61, while the average rate for limited-service hotels jumped 6.8 percent to $80.86. Full-service hotels feature extensive meeting space, restaurants, bars, pools, fitness rooms and other amenities.

The Broadmoor hotel and Cheyenne Mountain Resort are not included in the totals for Colorado Springs but are part of a separate category, "other resorts," with many of the state's ski areas. The occupancy rate for that category fell to 56.5 percent in January from 58 percent in January 2015 and the average room rate fell 0.9 percent to $279.55.

The statewide occupancy rate in January fell to 58.9 percent from 60.9 percent in January 2015 with declines in the Denver area, most of northern Colorado and many of the state's ski resorts. That rate has declined in three of the past four months. The state's average room rate still rose 2.5 percent to $157.76.

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