|By Jennifer Hall, St. Joseph
News-Press, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 26, 2011--Is there enough room in St. Joseph?
More than a few proposals are on the table for new developments in and outside of the city, from an agricultural expo center in the east to a convention center Downtown.
Not everyone thinks the 1,100 hotels rooms available in St. Joseph can suffice.
In 2010, the hotel occupancy, citywide, was at 65 percent, said Marci Bennett, the St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director. The average daily rate was $69.34, up $3.09 from the previous year.
"(The numbers) show that there is more demand than people think that there is," Ms. Bennett said.
Compared to national hotel industry statistics, she said, St. Joseph has maintained and increased occupancy levels for the past three years. In a time of economic struggles, the local market has been stable.
"We don't depend on anything to keep the rates up like many other cities do," she said. "We still have plenty of weekends that we are totally sold out (of hotel rooms)."
In reference to lodging, the two top calls members of the CVB receive are inquiries about extended-stay hotels and recreational-vehicle lots.
Besides two state park facilities, there is only one RV area available for travelers in St. Joseph.
Candlewood Suites, an extended-stay hotel, plans to begin construction this year near The Shoppes at North Village. In addition, backers of an ag expo center say a hotel could be built near that site in east St. Joseph, though nothing has been announced.
"If they get all the events, they're looking at building hotels, motels," said R.T. Turner, Buchanan County presiding commissioner. "It is an as-needed basis. No one is going to invest if they don't see a need."
There are a number of demand generators in St. Joseph: Heartland Regional Medical Center, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Missouri Western State University and large events at Civic Arena.
"Anyone who is going to invest money in a hotel is going to locate closest to those demand generators," Ms. Bennett said.
From doctors at Heartland to new people looking to relocate, extended-stay hotels are exactly what is needed, Ms. Bennett said.
"I've thought that for years," she said. "We definitely do not have enough rooms Downtown to support any sort of a large Downtown convention center, currently."
Yet there's always the question of how the surplus would be filled during times of the year when there aren't events. The possible Downtown convention center could bring in an additional hotel Downtown, according to Clint Thompson, the city's planning and community development director.
Becky Clemens, a longtime St. Joseph resident, said there has been more than one occasion when she has had difficulty finding rooms for a family reunion.
"I don't think we have too many hotels at all," she said.
Jennifer Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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