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Connecticut shut out of Super Bowl boom

Published 12:33 am, Sunday, February 2, 2014
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STAMFORD -- As dozens of towns in the tri-state area enjoy millions of dollars in tourism money flooding their markets in the days leading up to the Super Bowl matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, lower Fairfield County has been relegated to the sidelines.

While area hoteliers had been expecting an increase in demand for the rooms spread throughout the city, the Super Bowl bubble never seemed to push its boundaries past the Connecticut state line.

"Normally, if you're a destination like Florida or Atlanta, where you don't have a ton of inventory, you sell out quickly, and you'll have a four-night minimum," said Jim Marino, general manager at the Stamford Hilton who just came to town after working at the Lexington in New York City.

Even at the Lexington, where he was working earlier this month, he said the pressure wasn't as high as one might expect, thanks to a large inventory built into the everyday structure of the Big Apple.

In the Hilton's case, there has been no increase in demand, according to Marino. And his hotel isn't the only one that has yet to see a blip in its radar for a weekend that usually clogs up metro areas months in advance.

"We really thought we'd get more," said Todd Lindvall, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Stamford Downtown. "We're disappointed, but we're only at 25 percent occupancy right now for that weekend."

In fact, the price of a hotel in Stamford between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3 is down 12 percent when compared to the same weekend last year, according to data from the travel website Orbitz.com. Back in 2013, the average room price in Stamford was $125.35 for the weekend, but this weekend the price is down to $110.88, according to the company.

"Even Marriott Corporate, they thought we'd see the overflow too, but I guess it went the other direction," Lindvall said late last week.

With the Super Bowl taking place in New Jersey, a stadium that serves as home field for two New York teams, word association with "Connecticut" may not come into play with out-of-towners seeking a place to stay. And while Director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism Randy Fiveash said the state typically targets its marketing toward the New York and New Jersey areas, Connecticut hasn't reached out to places like Denver and Seattle in an attempt to pick up tourism dollars from fans travelling to the games from afar.

"There was nothing directed toward, `Hey, if you're coming to the Super Bowl, come to Connecticut,'" said Fiveash.

"I don't know if New York or New Jersey did anything like that, but we did not do anything targeted at the Super Bowl."

With 82,000 people holding tickets for the Big Game, and thousands more likely to spillover as the event crashes into the region, the New York-New Jersey area is poised to soak up millions of dollars spent.

While the NFL reported last week that the number would likely hover around $600 million in revenue, figures released this week show it will likely be just a fraction of that number. But in Connecticut, with empty hotels and no official tourism campaign, it will be closer to a shutout.

"It's too bad," said the Marriott's Lindvall. "We were all excited for overflow because January is typically a slower month for us, but we just didn't see it."

maggie.gordon@scni.com; 203-964-2229; http://twitter.com/MagEGordon