Notre Dame, Alabama fans help South Florida businesses

Occupancy up 2% at Fort Lauderdale-area hotels compared to 2011

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - South Florida businesses are receiving help from the thousands of football fans descending on the area ahead of the BCS National Championship game.

The Westin Diplomat in Hollywood was filled with fans of the Fighting Irish on Thursday. The Crimson Tide fans were heading to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

There are plenty more fans of Notre Dame and Alabama descending on South Florida, and plenty of hoteliers who are happy to have them.

"The Loews Miami Beach is thrilled to be hosting so many fans for the BCS championship game. This is like a mini Super Bowl for us," said Mabel De Beunza at the Loews Hotel.

"Love it! It's great down here. Beautiful weather," said Maureen Bailey, a Notre Dame fan.

The game has been a blessing for South Florida.

Nikki Grossman with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau said many tourists the area relies on during the winter are from the northeast, where Superstorm Sandy battered homes and forced vacationers to scrap their South Florida trips.

Instead, the 20,000 football fans in South Florida for the Orange Bowl and Monday's BCS National Championship game are occupying those hotel rooms. According to the Visitors Bureau, hotel occupancy is up 2 percent from last year, adding an estimated $25 million to the Fort Lauderdale-area economy.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported hotel occupancy at 93 percent, which is nearly 20 percent higher than this time last year.

"Everything is expensive. Never paid that much for a plane ticket, for a hotel," said Bailey.

"Worth it for you though?" asked Local 10's Janine Stanwood.

"Yes! Absolutely," answered Bailey.

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