Advocate editorial board opinion: Study is needed to help attract hotels/motels to city
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Does Victoria need more hotel/motel rooms and a convention center? The answer to that question warrants a response. We don't know the path we should take right now, but Victoria certainly is poised for growth in the hotel/motel/convention sector.
Those additional rooms and convention center would serve a greater need by travelers, industry and business.
That's why we agree with the city to pay for a $30,000 study that would result in a market analysis, site analysis and what the impacts would be financially and economically.
With such a study in hand, and if it shows a need, the city would more easily convince hotels and motels to move to Victoria, as Mayor Will Armstrong noted about a company last year that made a presentation of building a convention center and hotel complex in Victoria, but wanted a study on that possibility first.
Bridgette Bise, executive director of the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau, said occupancy rates during the week in Victoria hotels and motels were at an astounding 90 percent, with weekend rates fluctuating between 60 and 80 percent.
With companies like Eagle Ford Shale and Catepillar coming into Victoria, it's safe to say the hotel/motel occupancy rate would achieve saturation - in other words, 100 percent during the week. And, more than likely, potential residents would be turned away, searching for a place to stay.
Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corporation, said it's a supply and demand issue. Many people looking for rooms currently are paying $149 to $160 a night at those lodgings along U.S. Highway 77.
"We're short on supplies," Fowler said. "From everything I've heard, prospects including Catepillar and companies associated with Eagle Ford Shale are finding it hard to find hotel rooms in Victoria. They've learned to book rooms far in advance."
A study that shows need in Victoria should attract a hotel convention center with ease because smaller cities than Victoria have done it. For example, San Marcos, with its approximately 50,000 population partnered with John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts in 2007 to build a $21 million city conference center and $50 million Embassy Suites Hotel.
That conference center boasts 77,300 square feet, enough for a variety of events, including boat shows, trade shows, auto shows, graduations, tech shows, business conferences and more. Bise said Victoria would need at least 25,000 square feet in a convention center. The community center, which does not meet criteria to advertise for conventions because of its lack of proximity to shopping and hotels, has about 19,500 square feet (dome and meeting room).
If San Marcos can do it, Victoria can do it, especially when you factor in the surrounding communities' population. And an increase in hotel/motel tax also will help to better promote tourism, hotel and convention industries.
The city should approve the study and consider a public-private partnership. Once we have that study, we should work toward a hotel convention center.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.