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Downtown Hotel Woes Continue as Conventions Lag

Downtown Hotel Woes Continue as Conventions Lag

Retail

by Deborah Belgum

Just when you thought things were recovering, they get worse. Downtown hotel occupancy rates in March dipped to their lowest level so far this year with only 45 percent of the rooms being occupied. In March 2001, 67.7 percent of the downtown hotel rooms were occupied.

March’s numbers are down from February’s 53.6 percent occupancy rate and January’s 49.8 percent rate.

Hotel managers blame the low numbers on the Los Angeles Convention Center having only two major conventions in town in March Computer Telephony and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

LAX-area hotels were also off in March. Although their occupancy rate was 73.5 percent, that’s down 11.6 percent from a year ago. “Our market is still suffering,” said Javier Cano, general manager of the 1,004-room Los Angeles Airport Marriott. “The business traveler is still not coming back to Los Angeles.”

Managers expect the summer to be better with several major conventions coming to town through August. Conventions include the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June, the Microsoft Corp. convention and National Urban League convention in July, and a Cisco Systems trade show in August.

Baby Sale

Munchkin Inc., a Van Nuys-based manufacturer of baby and toddler products sold in major discount stores nationwide, has purchased the Healthflow brand from Johnson & Johnson for an undisclosed price.

The brand, which generated $15 million in sales for Johnson & Johnson last year, has a line of baby bottles, nipples and drinking cups.

Munchkin, a privately held company founded in 1991 by Steven Dunn, will expand Healthflow by developing products that should hit store shelves by next year, said Margaret Hardin, chief financial officer for Munchkin.

This is Munchkin’s first purchase of another company’s product line. In the past, Dunn has relied on his own product concepts to expand Munchkin.

Munchkin is known for its baby bottles bearing the logos of several soft drink brands and the “Better Bottle Brush,” which makes it easier to clean the bottom of a baby bottle.

Parking Pullback

After complaints about expensive parking at the Hollywood & Highland retail/entertainment complex, the Los Angeles City Council voted last week to drastically reduce rates.

When the $615-million project opened in November, the parking rates were among the highest for any local shopping center, costing $1 for every 20 minutes with a $10 maximum.

The new rates have been cut to $2 for a four-hour period with validation from any restaurant, retail store or cinema. Without validation, the rate remains at $1 for the first hour and $1 for every 20 minutes up to $10.

The rates are set by the Department of Transportation, which owns and operates the 3,000-space parking lot.

Staff reporter Deborah Belgum can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 228, or at

dbelgum@labusinessjournal.com.

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