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Some Question the Logic of Building Up to 10 New Hotels
 with Over 1,000 Rooms in The Boise, Idaho
By Joe Estrella, The Idaho Statesman, BoiseMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 5, 2007--Ten new hotels with more than 1,000 new rooms are being built in the Treasure Valley this year, a dramatic increase that makes some veteran area hoteliers nervous.

Six have opened already, and four are planned to open this summer. That compares with two new hotels in 2005 and two more in 2006.

All the new rooms might produce a price war as hoteliers chase guests.

"Can the market absorb all these new rooms? That's a question that nobody can answer," said Pat Rice, general manager of the Boise Centre on The Grove. "But it's sure going to be an interesting ride."

The hotels target mostly business travelers. They feature suites and amenities such as WiFi, CD/DVD players, MP3 jacks and flat-screen TVs, plus meeting and exercise rooms.

They charge $80 to more than $200 a night, depending on the day of the week.

For example, the standard room rate at the Country Inn and Suites at 3355 E. Pine Ave. in Meridian will run $80 to $100 a night, the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

The new hotels include the nation's first Cambria Suites, which opened this month on the north side of the interstate within sight of the Boise Airport.

Others include the Homewood Suites by Hilton near the Spectrum movie-theater complex and the Hampton Inn in the BoDo development Downtown.

The new rooms will add to the 7,000 existing rooms in the Boise metro area. The tally does not include a 250-room Marriott that one of the nation's pre-eminent hoteliers, John Q. Hammons, wants to build in Downtown Boise, along with a new convention center.

But Damon Anderson, manager of Cambria Suites, isn't worried.

"Boise has been one of the best-kept secrets around," said Anderson, who spent seven years at The Grove Hotel in Downtown Boise.

"Boise has grown by leaps and bounds, and it seems like it has only been in the last two years that the number of hotel rooms has begun to catch up."

An industry consultant agrees. Wolfgang Rood, owner of Wolfgang Rood Hospitality Consulting, doubts prices will fall.

"I'm sure that these large chains have made an analysis of the Boise market," Rood said. "There is too much money involved in building a hotel for them not to."

But others worry that the new hotels will pirate away business.

"I've been warning against this for the last 18 months," said Chuck Everett, operations manager for Ameritel Inc. "Every hotelier in town should be worried about the number of hotel rooms being built. And Downtown cannot absorb a 250-room Marriott. Ask Norm Howard, the manager of The Grove, which is already competing against a Hampton Inn down the street, how he feels about it."

Howard questioned the logic of building so many new hotel rooms when the Treasure Valley is not attracting any major "room generators" -- big employers like Micron and Hewlett-Packard that have people constantly flying in and out of Boise.

"With no new room generators of any consequence, the pie is going to get smaller for all of us," Howard said.

The Greater Boise Auditorium District would be the big winner if the Treasure Valley can attract enough visitors to fill the rooms.

The district collects a 5 percent room tax on every room booked in the district, a revenue stream that generated more than $3.6 million in 2006.

To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Joe Estrella at jestrella@idahostatesman.com or 377-6465.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Idaho Statesman, Boise

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