Hotel room rates in the city have risen so much this year that visitors have begun to avoid the Big Apple, leaving experts to worry whether the city's tourism boom will be stopped in its tracks.

For the first seven months of this year, hotel occupancy fell 1.2% to 83.8%, compared with the same period in 2005. At the same time, the price for a room has soared. The average cost of a hotel room in the city rose 11% to $241, according to PKF Consulting. This fall, the average room rate is approaching $300.

The decline in occupancy is the first since the strong second half of 2003, when the city began to reverse its slide after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

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