Downtown hotel occupancy tops in nation with March Madness influx

The JW Marriott is among the hotels the NCAA booked to house men's basketball teams. (IBJ file photo)

With thousands of visitors in town for the NCAA basketball tournament and other athletic events, occupancy rates at downtown Indianapolis hotels were the highest in the nation for the past two weekends, breaking the pandemic tourism setback that settled in a year ago.

Last weekend alone saw just more than 96% of downtown’s nearly 8,000 hotel rooms occupied, according to hotel data firm STR. That outpaced even warm-weather destinations during the peak of spring break, including Tampa, Florida, where occupancy was 88%.

Downtown Indianapolis occupancy was about 88% the weekend prior, with a full-week average of 50.5%. Those figures were driven largely by the Nike Mideast Volleyball Qualifier tournament, along with fans in town for the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and teams starting to arrive for the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament—being played across six venues, including four in Indianapolis, one in Bloomington and another in West Lafayette—resulted in about 74.2% occupancy for the entire week of March 15 to 22 for the city’s central business district, according to STR.

That compares with an occupancy rate of 8.6% for the same week a year ago, the very week the  city and state issued stay-at-home orders amid the pandemic.

Some hotels, like the JW Marriott, the Marriott Downtown Indianapolis and the Conrad all shut down temporarily because of record-low occupancy rates a year ago.

Leonard Hoops, president of Visit Indy, said the figures far exceeded local expectations.

“It’s hard to do any better than what we did this first weekend,” he said. “And, all things considered, Indianapolis did as well as could possibly have been done.”

The NCAA Tournament saw about 111,000 spectators attend games during the First Four and first and second rounds, with some individuals attending multiple games.

The average daily rate for rooms in the city last week was about $128, compared to about $119 the same week last year. And revenue per available rooms—a key indicator for market health—was leaps and bounds better, at $95 compared to $10 in 2020.

During this year’s Big Ten tournaments, the average daily rate was somewhat higher than during the first week of NCAA action, at $151—also about $21 lower than a year before. But the figure for last week is likely brought down by negotiated rates for the NCAA, which booked the entirety of five hotels—including the city’s two largest—to house teams and support personnel.

In Marion County, the overall occupancy rate for last week was 65%, and 54% for the week before. The entire metro area saw similar rates, at 62% and 54%, respectively.

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16 thoughts on “Downtown hotel occupancy tops in nation with March Madness influx

    1. A lot of them are probably hiding in Westfield, having not set foot in Indianapolis for 20 years to avoid minorities.

  1. I am glad they had a decent turnout for the tourney but be honest and admit that the crowds were a fraction of what they would have been without the forced restrictions. So remember that it is easy to downplay the loss of others when you are working and earning income. The nation would not be in near the mess we are now financially if more people would have not lost their livelihood during the pandemic.

    1. It’s easy to downplay the loss of others when you don’t know someone who has died from Covid-19. Apparently you think being on unemployment is worse than being dead. I’d sacrifice my job for my health.

    2. People die all the time Wesley. Sometimes even by diseases that scourge much younger people, whose likelihood of death in a given year is very close to zero. Meanwhile, the median age of death for COVID in most developed countries is the early 80s–in other words, the same age when people usually die. The overwhelming majority of 70-year-olds face no major health consequences.

      Why are COVID deaths sequestered in the reporting? Why do they spoken with undue whisper of reverence that no other deaths receive? What about untreated cancers because, for a few months last spring and summer, virtually all hospitals were turned into COVID wards (and then most were so staggeringly empty that the nurses stood around choreographic Tiktok videos)? What makes COVID deaths so special, except that the serve the propagandistic narrative?

      Best hotel occupancy since the pandemic began is great, but it’s almost certainly still much lower than the 10-year average. It has to be. Government mandates.

      Not all of us are as willing to perpetuate the lies as you are. Or as Mayor Hogsett is, apparently.

    3. The “forced restrictions” for the past 12 months were necessary to prevent not just deaths, but the far higher number of serious illnesses caused by the virus. The pandemic’s potential to overwhelm hospitals and critical care units posed a greater danger that would have cascaded the number of deaths far beyond the 540,000 souls we know were lost. All things considered (including inept responses by the Trump administration), we got lucky. There are many of our fellow citizens who escaped death and permanent disability because there were restrictions.

    4. Keep the lies coming Brent. You’re statement was credible for about two weeks. Remember “15 days to flatten the curve”? That has proven itself one of the greatest political lies since “Saddam Hussein had nuclear-scale WMDs”. A mega lie from the GOP in the 2000s; a mega lie from the Dems in 2020.

      I’m glad this rationalization works for you, but it doesn’t for huge numbers of us. The Pandemic was always political. You’ve proven it through your own comments. I’m not exempting myself from the politics, but if even our corrupt CDC can admit that 94% of people reported as COVID deaths had other comorbidities, then the 500K is just part of the propaganda. At this point most of us know people–including seniors–who caught COVID and had, at worst, a bad flu. Many people, including the elderly, were still asymptomatic. That IS the status quo. The over-reporting of deaths or serious cases is sensationalism intended to dupe people and get them scared and obedient.

      It simply isn’t that serious and the response was political manipulation for people eager to protect certain business interests that fund their campaigns: globalism, big pharma, multinational NGOs, the mega-retailers like Amazon who did just fine.

    5. Brent B, serious illnesses caused by the virus? I would love to ask someone with a cancer diagnoses with X amount of time left how they feel if they contracted an extended symptom cause by Covid-19.

  2. Be interesting to see if Carmel’s paid bloviators either immediately glom on if Hotel Henry, er Caremichael, is seeing a bump, or as is more likely based on my passing by the graveyard in the last week, the hype machine telling us all we need to know by saying nothing.

  3. “Rather than exhaust your energy in bickering over where
    you disagree, align your effort with where you do agree and
    create wins, whether it’s in our city, state or nation,”

  4. A 45-year-old losing her/his job and means to support a family because of heavy-handed government, through no fault of her/his own, is far more abnormal and thus far worse for a community in general than an 83-year-old dying from the flu, which happens every day even in the best of times and to a large extent cannot be prevented. It’s callous of me to say, but it’s what most rational people know to be true. Unfortunately, rational people making decisions during this pandemic are in extreme short supply.

    1. For nearly a year, there was no vaccine to prevent someone from being infected by the Covid-19. In that regard alone, the virus posed a far greater potential risk to everyone in the population – including you – than the influenza. The 83-year old who died from the flu had a vaccine that could have saved his or her life. The 540,000 Americans who died of the coronavirus did not have the option. These stark facts are the rational truth.

    2. The only greater potential risk was the fact that it was unknown, Brent. “NOVEL” Coronavirus. As it became known, and we recognized that the CCP and their good buddies at the WHO shrouded data (and still are to this day), we could have concentrated our efforts to save the extreme elderly without making it harder for other people to live their lives. A collapsed economy will kill far more people and result in much more social upheaval…which we are clearly seeing from homicide rates returning to the levels of the 80s crack epidemic. How’s that for “safe”?!!?

      A disease with a 99.8% survival rate does not need the global economy to be subjected to a pause button while we develop a vaccine. (AKA the insidious “Great Reset”). If the virus mutates and triggers a cytokine storm in young people’s auto-immune systems (as what happened in the second wave of the Spanish flu a century ago), you would have an excellent point. This has not happened. The 83-year-old who dies from the flu still has a significant odds of dying from the flu at any given point; it’s the nature of being elderly. If a Roman general had waged war based on your logic, the entire European continent would be speaking Germanic or Slavic languages today. You try to save the most vulnerable, but you don’t risk driving down your entire society by purely punishing the healthy…who are the most critical lifeline to saving the vulnerable.

      These stark facts are a deliberate effort to hide the catastrophic failure that the last year has been, most pronounced in the places with the severest lockdowns. Bully to Indiana that it didn’t take the idiotic Michigan approach. Fewer deaths AND a much stronger economy. These are the facts you and your water-carriers in the dying legacy media propaganda machine are failing to recognize because you call it “misinformation”. Those of us not sleeping through life recognize that there is NEVER a situation where only one narrative is true, and efforts to suppress generally mean there’s an undercurrent of truth that the powers-that-be are intellectually unwilling to confront. Sadly, the lies have become so massive that in 2021, the “misinformation” is the most reliable source for facts.