South Florida hotels see rise in bookings

The winter shouldn't be quite as harsh for tourism this time around.

As Art Basel Miami Beach heralds the unofficial launch of the "high" tourism season this week, demand has finally begun to rise for trips to South Florida. That could signal a turning point for a hotel market besieged by discounted rates and weak demand, trends that have pushed some of the region's flashiest hotels to the brink of foreclosure.

Severe cutbacks in travel spending haven't stopped art buyers from driving up rates in Miami Beach this week -- the cheapest rooms at the Delano go for $825 a night this weekend, compared to $345 next weekend.

The real test begins Sunday after the country's largest contemporary art show turns off the lights at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

"It looks like the slide is either slowing down or reversing," said Peter Sahora, general manager of the Z Ocean Hotel in South Beach. "We'll see what happens in January and February."

No one expects the upcoming winter to rescue South Florida hotels from the grips of a harsh economy, even with the arrival of Super Bowl and the NFL's Pro Bowl eight weeks from now. And gains in demand do not translate into more profits if hotels are forced to continue discounting rates to fill beds.

To read the complete article, visit