|By Peter Bacque, Richmond Times-Dispatch,
Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 27, 2009--Despite the slumping economy, the metropolitan Richmond region will add about 1,300 hotel rooms this year, an 8 percent increase.
That will come on top of 965 rooms added to the area's lodging inventory in 2008.
Shamin Hotels, the region's largest hotel company, will open four properties locally this year, said Lori Darling, the Chester-based hotelier's vice president of sales and marketing.
"We are full speed ahead with all our projects," Darling said. "Shamin Hotels is in this for the long haul. We have confidence, in the areas we're building, that the business will come. This economy won't last forever."
The region counts about 140 hotels providing more than 16,000 rooms, said John F. Berry Jr., president and CEO of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Nearly three-quarters of those properties are in fast-growing Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Henrico is home to 66, and Chesterfield has 36 of the hotels.
Annually Richmond plays host to about 5.5 million visitors from more than 50 miles away. In 2008, they spent $1.84 billion in the metro region, he said.
Thirteen hotels are proposed or under construction in the metro area right now, according to figures from the visitors bureau. The planned openings of at least three have been delayed.
If the properties are eventually constructed, seven of the 13 will be in Henrico, three in Hanover, two in Richmond and one in Chesterfield.
In August, the visitors bureau listed 21 hotels proposed or being built in Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover. Record years for the regional hotel business from 2004 to 2007 prompted a building boom, Berry said. "Then the bottom fell out of the economy last summer."
Statewide demand for lodging was down 2.8 percent in 2008 compared with the year before, said Sean McCarthy, research director with Virginia Tourism Corp. in Richmond.
Chesterfield County Commissioner of the Revenue Joseph A. Horbal reported the county's transient occupancy tax revenue -- levied on hotel stays -- has dropped 10.2 percent so far in the 2009 fiscal year compared with the same period in 2008.
Henrico County's finance director, John A. Vithoulkas, said Henrico's hotel room tax receipts are running 5 percent below the previous year's.
"Much of the hotel stays are business-related," Vithoulkas said. "It's an indication of . . . a declining business environment."
Because travel bookings are down, Berry said, "2009 is the year of the travel deal."
Martha M. Meade with the AAA Mid-Atlantic travel organization in Richmond said: "Hotel rates are some of the lowest we have seen in five to 10 years or more."
To encourage fans to come to its May 1-2 NASCAR doubleheader event, Richmond International Raceway has worked with dozens of hotels to offer reduced race-weekend prices and, in most cases, eliminating minimum-stay requirements.
Contact Peter Bacque at (804) 649-6813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New hotels This year, 13 hotels have been proposed or are being built in the Richmond region. Chesterfield County: Residence Inn by Marriott, Chester area Hanover County: Country Inn, Doswell Country Inn and Suites, Lewistown Road Comfort Suites, Doswell Henrico County: aloft Hotel, Short Pump Candlewood Suites, airport area Hampton Inn, airport area Hilton Conference Center and Spa, Short Pump Hotel Sierra, Short Pump Hyatt Place, White Oak Village 11-story hotel, Innsbrook area Richmond: Hampton Inn, Bells Road Holiday Inn, Richmond south
SOURCE: Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau
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