Some Coast Hotels May Ring In New Year With Vacancies

These are not very happy holidays for people in the Gulf Coat hotel motel industry.  "You noticed my sign," Super 8 manager Kay Lynn said, "got two for one. I mean it's that bad. That's what you call heads in the beds."

And Lynn says heads in the beds won't help her non-casino property make much money.  "We can't compete," she said.  "It's just that simple. We don't have anything to compete with as far as us versus the casinos. Nothing."

Casino executives say that's not true. They point to the new motels up on Interstate 10 as an example of non-casino properties that can compete with the casinos.  According to Palace Casino general manager Keith Crosby, the rooms near the interstate "are gorgeous and they're priced competitively with us. So I really don't think it's being driven by the casinos."

Whether it's because of too many comped rooms or just too many rooms period, the Gulf Coast Hotel Motel Association says check ins were flat this year. As a result, out of town guests got some affordable deals at casino and non-casino properties.

One of those guests was New Orleans native Pat LeBlanc.  She says she paid "$59 a night, which is a very good rate. They have beautiful rooms here."

The casino hotels will be full for both New Year's Eve and the Sugar Bowl game featuring two Florida teams.  According to Crosby, "We went out with a package for that weekend and filled right up. So it's going to be good for everybody. We're really lucky to be right in the middle."

Kay Lynn says her computers show no reservations for either traditionally busy event.  "Like I said the casinos are just killing me."

Several motel owners who wouldn't go on camera said the same thing. They consider the casinos the grinch who stole their holiday business.

In 1999, hotel occupancy at all coast hotels was 70 percent. The average price at a casino hotel was 72 dollars. A non-casino hotel room cost 64 dollars.  Industry leaders think all those numbers will fall when the hotel industry tallies up how it did in 2000.