|By Jenny Kincaid Boone, The Roanoke
Times, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 8, 2008 - The Roanoke Valley's lodging options are increasing by two.
New hotels are planned this year in Salem and in Roanoke County, upping the Roanoke Valley's approximate hotel count to 62, according to the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A Comfort Suites with 72 rooms is under construction on Wildwood Road in Salem, while an 86-room Candlewood Suites is planned off Thirlane Road in Roanoke County.
The addition of the new hotels reflects positively on the Roanoke Valley's ability to draw investors to the lodging market, but it also poses a challenge, said Dave Kjolhede, the executive director for the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Average occupancy has been flat at Roanoke Valley hotels for the past several years, at 57 percent or 58 percent annually, he said. The bureau compiles data for hotels in Roanoke and Salem, and the counties of Roanoke, Botetourt and Franklin.
"The challenge becomes to continue to generate enough people that the hotels can make money, because the other side of the coin is if you add rooms, then that tends to drive occupancy down across all of them," Kjolhede said.
The owners of each hotel said they've found prime real estate in some of the Roanoke Valley's busiest travel areas.
At the site of the new Comfort Suites, situated between Food Lion and an El Toreo restaurant, this 45,000-square-foot hotel is poised to capture Interstate 81 travelers. The location makes the hotel an easy stop for travelers to the New River Valley and visitors to Roanoke College in Salem, said franchise owner Dharmendra Patel.
Patel, who moved to Botetourt County from Pennsylvania last year, owns two other Salem hotels, the Quality Inn on Sheraton Drive and Comfort Suites on Keagy Road, near Lewis-Gale Medical Center.
He said the rooms in the new hotel will be arranged in suites, with bedrooms, sleep sofas and microfridges. Rates will range from $80 to $120 a night.
The new Comfort Suites will have an indoor pool and a jacuzzi. It should open this summer, Patel said.
Choice Hotels International owns the Comfort Suites brand.
In Roanoke County, Granger Macfarlane, a local hotelier who runs Eastern Motor Inns, plans to build a 60,000- to 70,000-square-foot Candlewood Suites at a site off Thirlane Road.
The hotel is an extended stay property, which means it is intended to house people who may reserve rooms for three to 10 days at a time. But the properties also take overnight guests.
Macfarlane said the new hotel, located near Interstate 581, will draw travelers from Roanoke Regional Airport and others traveling throughout the area. Another hotel that Macfarlane owns, the Hampton Inn, sits up the hill on Thirlane Road from the future Candlewood Suites site.
But rising four stories high, the Candlewood Suites "is going to be very prominent on that intersection," Macfarlane said.
He expects it to open by the end of the year. Room rates will start at $75 a night, Macfarlane said.
The InterContinental Hotels Group, which also owns Holiday Inn, owns the Candlewood Suites brand.
While occupancy rates may be affected by the new hotels, the Roanoke Valley's occupancy tax generated jumped 7.8 percent to $1.3 million in July, August and September of 2007, compared with the same three months in 2006, according to the bureau's latest quarterly report.
Kjolhede attributed the increase to "more people staying overnight in the area," he said.
Out-of-towners also spent 7.3 percent more money while visiting the Roanoke Valley in 2006, compared with 2005, according to an October report from the Virginia Tourism Corp.
Kjolhede said he'd like to see occupancy at hotels across the area increase, though he does not believe that the Roanoke Valley has reached its saturation point for lodging.
"The good news is, it [occupancy] is not going down, which means we're generating more people every year to maintain the occupancy," he said. "We've got more rooms to fill now."
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