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Victoria's room boom to continue (Special Report in Sunday Advocate)

By ALLISON MILES
March 23, 2013 at 8 p.m.
Updated March 23, 2013 at 10:24 p.m.

Rooms to grow

A closer look at hotel occupancy for the Victoria Metropolitan Statistical Area:

2003:

• Occupancy: 57.4%

• Room nights sold: 236,857

2004:

• Occupancy: 54.4%

• Room nights sold: 221,533

2005:

• Occupancy: 57.3%

• Room nights sold: 241,485

2006:

• Occupancy: 56.5%

• Room nights sold: 264,150

2007:

• Occupancy: 59%

• Room nights sold: 284,850

2008:

• Occupancy: 58.4%

• Room nights sold: 279,180

2009:

• Occupancy: 47.6%

• Room nights sold: 225,128

2010:

• Occupancy: 56.6%

• Room nights sold: 274,982

2011:

• Occupancy: 76.6%

• Room nights sold: 364,133

2012:

• Occupancy: 79%

• Room nights sold: 374,906

Source: travel.state.tx.us/TravelResearch/Hotel-Reports.aspx

As progress continues on incoming hotels and others open for business, Victoria's lodging options, like those under-construction floors, are on the rise.

So the room boom isn't over yet. Officials say more hotels are on their way.

An incoming La Quinta Inn, which city records indicate would go in at 3107 S. Laurent St., would be the first new hotel for that part of town in years. Monica Leal, development coordinator for the city of Victoria, said the proposed hotel would boast 67 rooms but, while the company has submitted preliminary plans, they are still under review.

Development along Laurent Street is a welcome sight, said Randy Vivian, president and chief executive officer of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

The area doesn't have many hotels, he said, and those that are there are aged. While the addition will bring added competition, it also gives people traveling U.S. Highway 59 South a place to stay without traveling across town.

"It's very convenient," Vivian said. "It's good."

Other projects include the Crosswinds Inn, which would offer an additional 60 to 70 rooms, and a proposed Comfort Inn and Suites, said LaRue Roth, director of the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau. Although Comfort Inn has consulted city officials regarding a possible site, it has not filed building or site plans.

Victoria's Homewood Suites already is open for business, adding 109 rooms to the mix, while the Days Inn, slated to open at the end of the month, means another 64 rooms, Roth said. The Hilton Garden Inn follows shortly after in June, while representatives with the Courtyard by Marriott going in by Victoria Mall say that hotel should open in the first quarter of 2014.

Not everyone is certain the upcoming builds are a good idea.

Any casual observer can see Victoria has a number of hotels already under way, said David Brown, chief executive officer of Citizens Medical Center. And, although he admitted there is a demand, he said, further projects raise red flags.

"It leads me to wonder, 'Holy cow. Who's going to fill these things?'" Brown said. "I'm just concerned."

If nothing else, Brown said, there is a silver lining. With one Victoria hospice hoping to build an in-patient facility, he said it might consider moving into one of the hotels at the oil boom's end.

Officials say the ongoing oil activity is largely behind the Crossroads region's packed hotels.

"This might work out to their advantage," he said of the hospice. "A hotel could serve their purpose."

Others say that while they remain cautious about overbuilding, the hotels are necessary.

Victoria's occupancy rate hovers at about 100 percent throughout the week, Roth said, although weekend traffic has lightened some. She said the visitors bureau's job is to remain realistic and responsive to the hotel community.

"We work with the hotels as best we can and encourage them to work with one another," she said. "We're partners with them."

Even now in the midst of the boom, her staff is brainstorming the next group to bring to town to fill those rooms, she said.

Vivian agreed that the additions meant Victoria's economic developers must continue to find ways to lure business to town. Still, with estimates that Eagle Ford Shale activity will continue for 10-plus years, he said he was confident.

The up-and-coming businesses will likely bring good things for travelers' pocketbooks, too.

"We've gone for about two years with almost total occupancy during the week, and it's driven prices up," Vivian explained. "This should make it more affordable for folks outside of business to be able to get a room in Victoria."

The rooms mean another benefit, said Keith Totah, general manager of America's Best Value Inn, 3901 Houston Highway, in Victoria.

That growth means the city is prospering, he said, and competition is good for everyone. It keeps companies on their toes, he explained, and keeps them providing quality service.

"I don't think it'll affect us on this side of town," he said. "At least, I hope not."

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