|By Fran Daniel, Winston-Salem Journal,
N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 21, 2009--CN Hotels Inc. isn't waiting for the economy to pick up to expand its local business.
The hotel owner/operator, based in Greensboro, has set a tentative opening date of Jan. 15 for its sixth hotel in the Triad.
The hotel, a four-story Hampton Inn & Suites, is under construction at 309 Summit Square Court in the Hanes Mill Road/University Parkway area in northern Winston-Salem. CN Hotels owns the Holiday Inn Express -- Winston-Salem Downtown West on Miller Street.
Like other hotel brands, Hampton is operating in an industry in which occupancy and lodging rates have been down for the past year.
In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, the overall lodging occupancy rate from January through August was 49.4 percent compared with 57.1 percent for the same period in 2008, Visit Winston-Salem said.
Stephan Dragisic, a spokesman for Visit Winston-Salem, attributes the drop to the slow economy.
There are three sectors in the local lodging industry -- business-transient travel, independent leisure travel and the group market, which includes meetings, conventions and sporting events.
"We've seen the majority of decline in the leisure market and in the business-transient market," Dragisic said.
Jeff Higley, a spokesman for Smith Travel Research, a hotel-data research company in Hendersonville, Tenn., said a shortage of business travelers has eroded the average daily rate at hotels in the United States.
"A number of hotels across the country are in trouble financially because they just haven't had the business to support being able to pay their bills," he said.
Smith Travel Research expects the national average daily rate for hotels will drop 9.7 percent to $96.43 and occupancy will decline 8.4 percent to 55.4 percent in 2009 over 2008.
Nicole Maurer, the regional revenue and sales director for CN Hotels, said that the economy has affected the chain's business somewhat, but its hotels in Winston-Salem and Greensboro are doing better in the current economic environment than its hotels in Raleigh and Charlotte, which it considers major markets.
Because cost is a big factor for business travelers today and leisure travelers are not on the go as much as they were two years ago, she said, CN Hotels has looked for creative ways to entice guests.
"We implemented some aggressive rate strategies and kind of geared our rate strategies toward the consumer," Maurer said.
Maurer said that Hampton, which is part of Hilton Hotels Corp., is a strong brand and should do well in the Winston-Salem market.
"Even though a lot of businesses have moved out of that Madison Park area, we still see a huge demand," she said.
The hotel's amenities include an indoor pool, 24-hour Pavilion Pantry Market and Cloud 9 bedding. Guestrooms will have flat panel televisions, refrigerators, microwaves and work space.
Maurer said that CN Hotels has already started presales efforts for the new Hampton.
"We've signed on several national accounts that we were fortunate enough to get through the Hilton system, as well as several local corporate accounts. We've been able to secure them so that when we're open their business will shift to our hotel."
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