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Hotels Hit by Second Inaugural Slowdown

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
Barriers were set up outside the Hay-Adams Hotel in 2009, when Obama stayed there before his inauguration. This time around, demand for rooms is much lower.

“Wow,” influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson tweeted earlier this week. “Was able to get a hotel room in DC for this coming weekend really easily. Surprised.”

He shouldn’t have been.

Obama inaugurama isn’t what it was four years ago. And that’s good news if you’re looking for a last-minute hotel room and don’t want to pay the cost of nice used car.

While a room still will set you back a bundle, hotels aren’t seeing the kind of madness that marked the swearing-in of the president four years ago.

A president taking the oath of office is still a huge deal, but President Barack Obama’s second term doesn’t hold the weight of history it did in January 2009.

“I just don’t think it has the same kind of caché it had four years ago,” said Renee Eisman, director of public relations at the Park Hyatt Washington. “We are obviously selling rooms, it’s just not as quick as last time.”

The Park Hyatt, like many hotels, has dropped the four-day minimum policy it had in place four years ago, a nod to the changed marketplace.

“Overall the expectation with second inauguration is lower and I think that’s what’s being experienced this time,” said Robin McClain, the director of communications for Destination D.C., the official marketing and tourism corporation for the District. “But we certainly feel a general excitement about it.”

Less Demand

“It is slower than what I consider a normal inaugural cycle,” said Hans Bruland, general manager of the historic Hay-Adams Hotel, which has soaring views of the White House. “The demand is much less.”

In 2009, then President-elect Obama stayed at the Hay-Adams, which spurred immense interest and filled the hotel for weeks before the inauguration. This time around, the president already has a place to live.

Bruland noted that there will be fewer inaugural balls this year compared with four years ago, which means fewer people coming to Washington.

This situation is not unique to Obama.

For President George W. Bush’s first inauguration in 2001, the average D.C. hotel occupancy over four nights (the three nights before and the night of inauguration) was 80.2 percent. That figured dropped to 75.9 percent for Bush’s second inauguration in 2005, according to Destination D.C.’s numbers.

Even at the high end of the spectrum, hotel occupancy isn’t what it was four years ago.“This one, we’re not seeing the business coming in like it did last time,” said Colleen Evans, regional director of public relations for the Ritz-Carlton. “Last time, both our hotels were sold out within five days of the elections.”

The Ritz has a hotel at the corner of 22nd and M streets Northwest and another in Georgetown. Both were about 70 percent occupied for the inauguration as of late Tuesday. The Ritz was sold out during Presidents Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s second inaugurations.

For inauguration night at the Ritz in Georgetown, rooms start at $999.

Space Available

If one is looking for a last-minute hotel room at a brand name establishment that’s not the Ritz or a piece of history, rooms are available, but still won’t be anywhere within the universe of cheap.

A search of Kayak.com, a hotel price aggregator, found four-night rates of $599 per night (before taxes and fees) at the Hyatt Regency Washington near Capitol Hill. Rates are below 2009 levels, but they still make a friend’s couch the more financially palatable option.

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