|By Brook Stockberger, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 10, 2005 - Donnie Storr knows hotels. As a pharmaceutical salesman, Storr said he's stayed in hotels all over the state of New Mexico.
Thursday he was checked in at the SpringHill Suites located at 1611 Hickory Loop in Las Cruces.
"I've stayed in Las Cruces a lot," the salesman said. "I come and go."
Storr is one of many individuals who contribute to revenue for the city of Las Cruces. The tax bill for those staying at a hotel or motel in the Las Cruces area is 9.5 percent. According to the Las Cruces Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB), for the fiscal year from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005, the income from the lodger's tax increased by approximately 7 percent from the previous year.
In fact, since the 2002-03 fiscal year, the increase in revenue is about 24 percent. For the 2001-02 year $883,006 were brought in by the lodger's tax.
In the recently-completed '04-'05 fiscal year, $1,146,157 came from the tax.
"This is really encouraging because, for the most part, Las Cruces basically has the same attractions and amenities we've had for the past several years," said Chris Favire, media/publications manager for the CVB. "Las Cruces' general popularity is driving this."
Different hotels see different types of lodgers.
"We're more of a government, corporate type of hotel," said Richard Cardenas, general manager of the SpringHill Suites. "But we do see all kinds of customers."
Said CVB General Manager Ken Mompellier, "Whether its leisure or business travel, tourism in Las Cruces continues to grow."
Favire pointed out that, as Las Cruces continues to grow, the number of people spending nights at hotels should also continue to be affected.
"If you're going to retire somewhere, your going to go visit the area before you move there," he said. "People who are (new) residents have probably been visitors here several times."
New facilities Las Cruces has seen a growth in new hotels the past several years. New hotels have been built in the Telshor Avenue area while a Staybridge Suites location is under construction at 2651 Northrise Dr. just off I-25 North, between the International House of Pancakes and Peter Piper Pizza.
Texas-based Lodging Host Hotel Corp., said that it hopes to have the $7 million facility open by December, Lodging Host Hotel Corp President Kevin Hilchey told the Sun-News in May.
Hilchey said a feasibility study was done on the Las Cruces area to see if a Staybridge franchise made sense for the area.
"We looked at growth in the market, pace of growth in the market the future for what is coming into the Las Cruces area," he said.
In addition, a Comfort Suites location is under construction on Avenida de Mesilla.
"For the last couple of years, occupancy has been averaging in the high 60s (percent of rooms available) and low 70s and that's a trigger for the hotel companies to say, "Look, this is a place to build," Favire said.
When a spate of new facilities open their doors, there is a period of adjustment for the hotel industry. While the number of visitors who spend nights in Las Cruces hotels might continue to increase, the occupancy percentage will fall for a while as more businesses share the customers.
"With new hotels coming into town, it's taken some of our business," Cardenas said.
Still, the situation has not stopped the Las Cruces SpringHill Suites from starting a $1 million renovation project.
"Business has been pretty good," Cardenas said.
In addition, Drury Inn & Suites, which has a location in Albuquerque, has a billboard along I-25 that announces it will open a location in Las Cruces.
The company did not respond to inquiries by press time, but the southern New Mexico city seems to be an attractive market for the hotel industry.
There are 2,320 rooms currently available in the area.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.
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