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April 19--The Colorado Springs tourism industry quickly recovered in March from the first decline in hotel occupancy in 1 1/2 years during February by posting the highest March occupancy rate in 20 years, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.

The percentage of rooms in local hotels filled last month jumped to 64.5 percent from 60.8 percent in March 2016, the highest for any March since the occupancy rate hit 67.4 percent in 1997. The occupancy rate fell in February to 55.4 percent from 56.9 percent a year earlier, the first monthly decline since August 2015. The average room rate in March jumped 6.5 percent from a year ago to $96.28.

Doug Price, CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, attributed the banner month to "perfect" weather, a later Easter holiday that typically slows business traveler and surging passenger traffic at the Colorado Springs Airport that is bringing visitors to the area.

A warm March -- The average high temperature was nearly 10 degrees above normal at 62 degrees with just two inches of snow reported, according to the National Weather Service -- attracted visitors and kept them here, Price said. Easter Sunday slowed business travel in the final weekend of last year, but this year that impact happened in April. He said the Colorado Springs Airport also is attracting more visitors and other travelers -- passenger numbers were up more than 20 percent from a year earlier in five of the six months ended in February. March numbers aren't yet available.

Occupancy in local hotels for the first three months of the year rose to 56.9 percent from 55.9 percent during the same period last year. The average room rate for local hotels during the same period was up 5.1 percent to $94.86.

Statewide hotel occupancy in March rose for the second time in three months to 70.4 percent from 67 percent in March 2016. The average room rate rose 2 percent to $166.62. So far this year, the state's occupancy rate is up to 64.1 percent from 63.3 percent a year ago and the average room rate has increased 3.3 percent to $167.42.

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