By Nigel Packer
Large numbers of journalists and dignitaries visiting London following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, helped generate an unexpected rise in occupancy levels at the capital's hotels last year, says a new report.
London Trends claims that average occupancy levels during 1997 were 83.9%, showing 1.3% growth over the previous year and a figure bettered only twice in the past quarter century, in the years surrounding the Queen's Silver Jubilee.
Superior de luxe hotels reported a particularly strong performance in September, the month following the tragedy in Paris, with occupancy levels up by 9.1% to 93.6%.
"The experience of the Royal Garden Hotel adjacent to Kensington Gardens epitomises the impact this tragedy had on London's hotels," says the report from management consultancy Pannell KerrForster. "Two large residential conferences scheduled for the week after Diana's death were cancelled. The rooms were immediately resold, largely to international media."
Despite a slow start to the year, London received an estimated record number of visitors during 1997, 26.6 million, helping push average room rates to a record level of £103.43.
Occupancy levels for the whole year were highest in tourist hotels, at 86.2%, although superior de luxe and international de luxe hotels both saw increases to around the 80% mark.
This was in marked contrast to the predictions of last year's report, which anticipated a slight decrease in line with that seen in 1996, when levels fell despite the boost provided by the Euro 96 football tournament.