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Local hotels see banner year (Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.)

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 22--Business was booming at Owensboro hotels in 2012.

A new report from the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau shows they took in $15 million, up 21 percent from $12.38 million a year earlier.

It was only the second time local hotel revenues had topped the $15 million mark -- and the first time since 2006 when the Executive Inn Rivermont was still open and doing good business.

However, with inflation factored in, $15 million in 2006 would be worth more than $17 million today.

The city-wide hotel occupancy rate climbed to 57.85 percent last year, the highest level since 1994.

Both the revenues and the occupancy rate are strong indicators that local tourism has come back from the Great Recession, Karen Miller Porter, the CVB's executive director, said last week.

For the first nine months of the current fiscal year, hotel revenues are running 7 percent ahead of last fiscal year, she said.

Two new hotels are planned on the downtown riverfront on opposite sides of the new Owensboro Convention Center.

The 151-room Hampton Inn & Suites on the convention center's east side is slated to open at the end of the year. And construction is scheduled to being this summer on the 120-room Holiday Inn on the west side.

"I think we'll see new growth with the new hotels on the river," Porter said. "They may hurt the older hotels for a while, but things will level out. We really need more rooms in town. There are a lot of times on weekends and during the week that we have a hard time finding rooms for everybody."

"There were nights last year -- and this year too -- when there was so much corporate travel that we had people staying in Evansville on week nights," said Ruth Ann Dearness, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott. "With everything that is going on in Owensboro, I don't think the new hotels will hurt other hotels. We might see a drop at first, but when the convention center cranks up, it will draw a lot more people to town."

"The convention center will have so many things to bring people to town," Porter said. "Our sports tournaments have been smaller for the past few years because we don't see a need to fill rooms in Henderson and Evansville. But now, with more hotel rooms, we'll be able to go after larger tournaments like we used to get. And the convention center will be able to handle sporting events that we haven't had in the past."

Last year's 57.85 percent occupancy rate was just shy of the national rate of 60 percent, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

It would likely have been lower if the Executive Inn was still open.

That downtown hotel had 641 rooms at its peak and 413 when it closed in June 2008.

Adding those rooms to the local inventory would likely have reduced the occupancy rate by a few percentage points.

Construction workers also played a role in the higher occupancy rate -- just like they did in 1994 when the rate hit a record 59.63 percent.

Between 600 and 700 construction workers were building the new Owensboro Health Regional Hospital on Pleasant Valley Road last year.

And hospital officials estimated that about 200 of those were from outside the immediate area.

Many of them lived in the lower-priced local hotels.

"Construction helps everybody," Dearness said.

While the workers might stay in cheaper hotels, she said, "We see compression. As those rooms fill up, people go to other hotels. Compression pushes everything up."

"The hospital construction has been a big influence on our occupancy rate for the past year and a half," Porter said. "But business travel has really been picking up again too."

Higher room rates also played a role in higher revenues.

Last year, said rooms at the nine franchised hotels in Owensboro ranged from $62 a night to $119.

And five of the nine were at or above $100 a night.

A CVB report from 2008 said that motel rooms in the community ranged for $22 to $80 a night the year before.

Last year, the occupancy rate topped 60 percent here in five months between May and October, topping at 68.38 percent in August.

The low mark was in December with 45.97 percent.

"Business was very good last year," Dearness said. "The numbers speak for themselves. We were very pleased."

Porter said this year and next should see steady growth in business for local hotels.

"But it will probably be 2015 before things really explode," she said. "By then, both new hotels will be open and the convention center will be really geared up."

Local hotel revenues and occupancy rates since 1990:

Year Receipts Occupancy

2012 $15 million

57.85 percent

2011 $12.38 million 53.16 percent

2010 $12.19 million 53.52 percent

2009 $12.87 million 50.67

2008 $13.937 million 48.7 percent

2007 $13.93 million 51.9 percent

2006 $15 million 45.5 percent

2005 $13.93 million 45.7 percent

2004 $12.87 million 40.99 percent

2003 $12.47 million 39 percent

2002 $12.25 million 40 percent

2001 $11.8 million 42.12 percent

2000 $11.5 million 42.68 percent

1999 $11.1 million 43.22 percent

1998 $13.1 million 52.73 percent

1997 $9.8 million 44.33 percent

1996 $8.9 million 48.66 percent

1995 $11.4 million 55.17 percent

1994 $10.8 million 59.63 percent

1993 $9.9 million 52.79 percent

1992 $8.6 million 45.51 percent

1991 $8.5 million 49.43 percent

1990 $9 million 56.77 percent

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,


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