|By Liset Marquez, Inland Valley Daily
Bulletin, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 23, 2011--ONTARIO -- Officials said they are hoping the arrival of an Embassy Suites will establish the city as a destination spot in the region.
Ontario officials also contend the $25 million hotel will pave the way for more full-service hotels to venture into the area, and could help boost passenger traffic at L.A./Ontario International Airport and conferences at the Ontario Convention Center.
The Embassy Suites is at 3663 E. Guasti Road.
"Just having that brand in our city adds to an already powerful lineup that we have here," said Bob Brown, general manager and chief executive officer of the Ontario Convention Center.
Construction crews are working to finish up the eight-story, 175-room Embassy Suites.
The hotel, which is set to open May 30, will become just the seventh full service hotel in Ontario.
"Embassy Suites has its own persona in the market as a hotel with spacious rooms and all the amenities," Brown said.
Future looks bright
The majority of the Ontario market is dominated by limited service hotels, which do not have food service facilities, according to an analysis conducted in 2008 by PKF Consulting.
The report was commissioned by the city to help planning officials review hotel development proposals in the future.
"The long-term outlook for the Inland Empire and the city of Ontario is favorable," according to the report. "We believe that the Ontario lodging market is in a strong position to continue its steady growth course."
The growth isn't expected to happen until the economy recovers, according to the report.
"The report analysis confirms what Ontario officials have believed all along and that is Ontario is an Embassy Suites market," said John Andrews, economic and redevelopment director for the city of Ontario.
Hotel officials impressed
The full-service hotel marks the first venture into San Bernardino County for builder Sun Development & Management Corporation, said Doug Marks, the company's executive vice president.
This also marks just the third Embassy Suites that the company has built in California.
"We found this market and were very impressed with the opportunities," Marks said. "We're very confident in Ontario and a great opportunity."
Embassy officials saw Ontario as a major market for business and leisure travelers, Andrews said.
They were also attracted to Ontario because of the location near the intersection of Guasti Road and Haven Avenue and in plain sight from the 10 Freeway, Andrews said. The hotel is near a major entrance to L.A./Ontario International Airport as well as across the street from a cluster of upper quality office space buildings, Andrews said.
"Embassy Suites is a hotel that works for both the business and tourist traveler," Brown said.
Hotel comes just in time
The arrival of the suites comes at a time when the Ontario market has been affected by the economy as well as a drop in passenger traffic at the airport, Brown said.
The drop in airport traffic has meant a 15 percent to 18 percent drop in business at the Convention Center, he said.
Hotels have also seen a reduction in occupancy, which has resulted in a sharp decline to the city's transient occupancy tax, a daily fee charged to hotel visitors.
In 2009, Ontario officials reported $2.7 million less to their tax revenues. The 27 percent drop from the previous year was the result of a down economy, Ontario officials said.
In 2006, revenue from the tax brought in $11 million to the city. But this fiscal year, it is projected to bring in only $8.4 million.
Ontario's bed tax rate -- another name for the tax -- is 11.75 percent.
It is still too early to tell how much of a boost there will be to the city's transient occupancy tax with the arrival of the suites, Andrews said.
The decline in hotel stays in the city has impacted hoteliers confidence in building, at least for now, he said.
There are a few hotels in the planning stages in the area -- two in the Guasti redevelopment project and one in Piemonte.
"Coming out of the downturn, we don't anticipate a steep return but it will be consistent, stable return," Andrews said regarding the hotel market.
But that downturn mirrored the declines Ontario officials said they saw in retail sales as well as the industrial sector, he said.
Crews finishing up Suites
As city officials gear up for the opening of the Embassy Suites, construction crews are busy finishing up the final details on the interior of the guest rooms, which are 95 percent complete.
On the ground level, the lobby as well as conference and meeting rooms are 80 percent complete.
Outside, the sidewalks and the parking lot pavement will be one of the last items to go in, Marks said.
Marks said most of the hotel staff will be in place by May 1.
And when the hotel first opens, Marks said it will be staffed with 45 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees. There is also the opportunity to increase staff, once the Embassy establishes a clientele, he said.
Each suites has a living room and bedroom.
Rates for the rooms have not been released, Marks said.
"The addition of the Embassy Suites certainly enhances the hospitality component," Brown said.
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Copyright (c) 2011, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.
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