A resurging airline industry and soaring rates at New York City hotels are providing significant lift for the Long Island hospitality industry.
Island hotels have long benefited from overnight stays by flight crews landing at Islip's MacArthur Airport, which has seen a steady increase in passenger traffic over the past decade.
But New York City's tight hotel market has increasingly led carriers from John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports to search for suburban deals.
And they've found them. Tom Gundersen, director of sales and marketing for the Long Island Marriott Hotel in Uniondale, said stays by airline crews are now "a very important part of our business. "
Mike Johnston, general manager of the hotel and president of the Long Island Hotel Association in Hauppauge, said the deals wouldn't have happened in the past.
"Normally, they wouldn't come out here," Johnston said, since crews want to be in the City, with its retail, restaurant and entertainment options.
The trend is a boon for local hotels, which have suffered from increased competition in recent years. Despite a dramatic slowdown in the travel industry following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, developers built 20 new hotels on the Island in the past six years, adding 2,400 rooms.
Airlines book hundreds of room nights per year, and the hotels "get those guaranteed nights, whether the airlines use them or not," noted Robert Lipper, editorial director at Melville-based Island Publications and an expert on the local hospitality sector.
As a result, the airlines drive a hard bargain and hotels have to be willing to negotiate contracts that are "favorable to the airlines," according to Moke McGowan, president of the Hauppauge-based Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Johnston said the Long Island Marriott had to make some concessions to land its latest airline deal, but was ultimately happy with the arrangement.
"You want some volume, so it's worthwhile," he said.
That volume allows hotels to more aggressively price their remaining rooms, adding additional revenue, McGowan added.
Now, companies such as Golden Touch Transportation are shuttling air crews via bus from JFK and LaGuardia to points all over the Island - and even that can be a plus.
"Sometimes," Johnston noted, "it's faster to get here than into the City. "
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