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Hotel bookings far lower than expected for pope's visit

The Double Tree hotel in Downtown El Paso.

The hotel industry did not see an increase in business despite the historic visit of Pope Francis in Ciudad Juarez Wednesday.

"We were expecting the hotels to be filled," said William Giraldez, the president of the El Paso Hotel/Motel Association and general manager of the Double Tree Hotel.

Girlandez said he thought occupancy rates would be more in line with what hotels in Washington, Philadelphia and New York saw last year during the pope's visit. He said almost every hotel in the region was sold out for that visit.

He said occupancy was steady at his downtown hotel, but said he was expecting more. He said other hotels in the region lost out on revenue because corporate accounts weren't booking rooms during what was expected to be a busy week.

"I think we missed a great opportunity," said City Council representative Emma Acosta.

She believes that the city didn't do enough outreach to attract tourists.

Joe Frandina, the owner of the Hotel Inn Express downtown and Days Inn on the eastside, told CBS4 tourism numbers were a disappointment. He said he expected more people to come see the pope in Ciudad Juarez than the northeast part of the country last year.

"Being in such a Catholic community, Juarez and El Paso, we actually expected better than what we saw on in those other cities," Frandina said.

He said his hotel on the eastside saw no pickup; he said his downtown hotel filled up to 85 percent. He said he accepted group bookings in the end, which are at a discounted rate.

"I'm not sure what else we could've done, the event is the event," he said.

Girlandez said the association does not have a count on how many rooms were booked for the pope's visit. He said a final tally is expected in the next week.

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