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Not Allowed to Advertise, The117 room Inn at USC in Columbia, South Carolina
 Exceeding Occupancy Goals

By James T. Hammond, The State, Columbia, S.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

May 4, 2006 - After a slow start late last year, The Inn at USC has met or exceeded its financial and occupancy goals every month since Jan. 1, general manager Ron Glancy says.

The first room was rented July 27, and every room was available by September. But restrictions on advertising -- agreed to by the University of South Carolina Development Foundation and hotelier Bert Pooser because of opposition by other hotel owners -- slowed the ramp-up process for the 117-room hotel on Pendleton Street.

Glancy said start-up may take six months to a year. For most hotels, start-up takes about four months.

"The first four months were scary," he said.

Glancy is optimistic The Inn at USC is well on its way to building a base of customers who will return again and again for football weekends, business and university events.

Tom Sponseller, director of the South Carolina Hospitality Association and a party to negotiations between the local hoteliers and USC, said The Inn has lived up to the terms of the agreement to limit its competition with privately owned hotels.

USC agreed to limit its occupancy for the first several years and to refrain from advertising in order to end the hospitality industry's opposition to a university-backed hotel. Sponseller said the Greater Columbia Hotel Motel Association will get its first look at the $13 million hotel's performance at the end of its first year.

April has been the best month this year, Glancy said. The Daniel Management Center at the Moore School of Business held several conferences that generated hotel business. And during the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, The Inn at USC was full six consecutive nights.

"We were surprised by the demand from that event," he said.

The hotel is booked for graduation this weekend.

The National Advocacy Center, a U.S. Justice Department facility across the street, sends its overflow guests to The Inn. With 264 rooms of its own, the advocacy center fills its own beds first.

"Our original expectations from the NAC might have been high," Glancy said.

Posted room rates range from $139 per night to $400, but some groups, such as alumni, may get negotiated contract rates. So far, Glancy said, about a half-dozen members of the General Assembly have been regulars.

With many hotel beds on the drawing board and other hotels referring business to The Inn, "I don't believe we have taken anything away from anyone else," Pooser said.

Reach Hammond at (803) 771-8474.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The State, Columbia, S.C.

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