For weeks, I've been reporting incrementally, here, in the paper and in the current Institutional Investor magazine, on a story that is really sneaking up in travel: the fact that the hotel business is in a serious tailspin.
It started at the mid-level hotels in late summer as business travel fell off, and suddenly smacked the luxury hotel brands upside the head in mid-September, and worsened since.
People in the hotel industry, which is generally a pretty happy business, full of optimists who really love travel, tell me they have never seen anything like this.
Smith Travel Research reports today that revenue per available room (called Revpar, it's the basic measurement of hotel performance) dropped a startling 13.2 percent during the week of Nov. 9-15, compared with the comparable week last year.
Average occupancy rates fell 11.6 percent and average room rates (which haven't yet shown a drop that directly reflects the malaise) fell 1.7 percent.
Leading industry forecasters are scrambling daily to keep up with the bad news. Smith Travel, which stays right on top of these things, said the latest Revpar decline was "certainly worse than we expected."
I'm in Tucson, holed up in the beautiful desert. My wife is back east till the weekend. She was on the train into Manhattan early this morning sitting near some very anxious Wall Street types who were discussing the collapsing Dow.
"Well, how low can it really go?" a woman asked.
"To one," a guy replied.
So the good news is that the Dow Jones average closed today a whopping 7551 points above the potential low. Whew.