Tucson’s tourism industry continued its rebound in 2018 and through the first quarter of 2019, as hotel occupancy and revenues continued to grow.

The metro Tucson area’s hotels enjoyed a strong peak season of January through March, with occupancy up 4 percentage points from the first quarter of 2018 at 78.6%, according to data from the Tennessee-based market research firm STR.

The overall average daily room rate rose 3% from 2018, to $138.72 during the quarter, while revenue per available room — a key measure of hotel performance — was up 7.1% to $109.08, STR data show.

By sector for the first quarter, revenue per available room rose 8.5% at airport-area hotels, 6.6% at east-side hotels, 3% downtown, and 0.6% at area resorts.

After posting big gains in occupancy, rates and revenue in 2017 — including a 13.5% increase in revenue per room — results for the local lodging flattened as expected in 2018.

Tucson-area hotels saw overall occupancy increase 3.4 percentage points in 2018, while average room rates rose 4.3% and revenue per room increased 7.8%.

Tucson-area hotel occupancy fell year-over-year in January, as the dates of the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase moved back a week into February this year, but that led to a strong February, said Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson.

Metro Tucson’s February hotel and resort occupancy was 85.4%, which led Tucson’s 15-city set of comparable large cities in the western U.S., DeRaad said.

That strength was maintained in March, when hotel occupancy was at 83.6%, STR data show.

“We find that to be very significant as we see continued March recovery in our market, following the loss of spring training baseball after the 2009 season,” DeRaad said.

He attributed the March growth to factors including increases in leisure travel, more group meeting business, and growth in government and sports travel.

Tucson Invitational Games, which stages training and games throughout March for NCAA Division II, Division III, NAIA and junior-college baseball and softball teams, filled more than 11,000 hotel room-nights in metro Tucson in March, DeRaad said. A room-night is one room reserved or occupied for one night.

Citing STR figures, DeRaad noted that since 2012, Tucson-area hotel occupancy in March has risen 15.9 percentage points, the average daily room rate has increased 34% and revenue per available room has grown 66%.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

Reporter

David joined the Star in 1997, after working as a consumer and business reporter in Phoenix for more than a decade. A graduate of Ohio University, he has covered most business beats focusing on technology, defense and utilities. He has won several awards.