|By Dave DeWitte, The Gazette, Cedar
Rapids, IowaMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Febuary 3, 2009--C EDAR RAPIDS -- The sparkling new Hampton Inn & Suites at 1130 Park Place NE might seem to be arriving at the wrong time, with travel slowing amid economic worries.
But the Hampton's developer, Hawkeye Hotels of Burlington, is forging ahead with a second hotel -- Iowa's first Homewood Suites by Hilton -- right next door. That hotel is expected to open in November.
Together, the 103-room Hampton and the 95-room Homewood Suites represent a $23 million investment in the Cedar Rapids hotel market, and will create about 50 jobs.
Two can be better than one when it comes to developing hotels, explained Keyur Naik, director of development and revenue management for Hawkeye Hotels. He says the Hampton will serve mainly business and leisure travelers who only plan a short visit, while the Homewood Suites will target mainly corporate travelers in the area for an extended period.
Hawkeye Hotels also will be able to tap synergies of having multiple hotels in the market. Hawkeye Hotels expects to share some management, maintenance, and corporate sales personnel between the hotels.
"That's the advantage of having two hotels next to each other," Naik says.
The Hampton Inn & Suites and the Homewood Suites are franchised by Hilton Hotels. The Hampton will be the second Hampton Inn in Cedar Rapids. Its 103 units will include 34 suites.
The suites are bigger rooms that are equipped with sleeper sofas, microwave ovens and refrigerators.
The other amenities at the Hampton include a swimming pool, spa, exer cise room, and a meeting room seating 50. Hampton guests receive complimentary breakfast and highspeed Internet service.
While the hotels aren't called Hiltons, they include some Hilton touches. Hilton grandly titles its bedding package "Cloud Nine: The Hampton Bed Experience." It even has a trademarked name for its complimentary breakfast, which is called "On the House." Hilton data cited by Naik shows that a few states, such as Texas and Iowa, are still showing good hotel occupancy compared with previous years.
"The hotel market in Cedar Rapids is still strong," Naik said.
Hawkeye Hotels has experience in the Cedar Rapids market, having acquired the Fairfield Inn in 2004, and renovated it in 2005.
Naik says occupancy at the Fairfield Inn was unexpectedly strong in 2008 because of room demand caused by the massive floods that hit Cedar Rapids.
In 2009, Naik expects some residual demand from the flood as contractors, consultants and other business people come here to help with flood recovery.
The Homewood Suites will be the first operated by Hawkeye Hotels, which has three other Hampton Inn & Suites.
Room rates at the Homewood Suites will be higher than at the Hampton for short stays, but travelers who stay at the Homewood for over a week will benefit from a lower extended-stay rate.
The Homewood Suites will include 49 rooms with separate sleeping quarters, which are almost like a corporate apartment, Naik says. All rooms have kitchenettes with full-size refrigerators, microwave ovens and dishwashers.
One new feature of the Cedar Rapids Hampton Inn & Suites will be its lobby design. Naik said the lobby features table seating in addition to "soft" seating. The idea was to provide a better setting for guests to work or collaborate while waiting in the lobby.
The Burlington company already operates side-by side hotels in two other hotel markets. They include a Quality Inn and an Econolodge in Moline, and a Fairfield Inn and Holiday Inn Express in Burlington.
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