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News for the Hospitality Executive

Spectrum Ventures and Gateway Hospitality's
County, North Carolina Hotel Projects Surviving Downturn

By Bethany Fuller, Statesville Record & Landmark, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 24, 2009--Andy Briggs admits he was a little worried when he saw some of the modern decor Marriott issued for the new Courtyard prototype in Statesville.

Yet, with about a month until the Cinema Drive hotel is scheduled to open, Briggs is amazed by how the hotel came together.

"Now that you can see the final product, it makes sense," said Briggs, a partner with Gateway Hospitality.

Despite some early concerns about occupancy rates at other hotels and multiple changes to the design plans, hotel management companies are pleased with how their Iredell County projects are turning out.

The Courtyard by Marriott and Holiday Inn Express are expected to wrap up construction in time for their June openings. TownePlace Suites by Marriott off Exit 33 in Mooresville has a scheduled completion date in October.

The economic slowdown forced hotel management companies to step back and evaluate their individual projects. Some changed the material the structures were made of or the amenities their hotel offers.

Spectrum Ventures III LLC and Gateway Hospitality were deeply invested in their projects when the economy started to take a serious downturn.

Dale Isom, Spectrum Hospitality III LLC managing partner, said it seemed like a good time to build a hotel when planning and initial construction started on the 116-room TownePlace Suites.

When the economy was taking some serious blows in September and October, individuals cut back on business and leisure travel. Isom said the occupancy rate at SpringHill Suites, another Spectrum property off Exit 33, varies from week to week.

"We are still open and operating," he said. "I think all hotel operators, we are just trying to get by right now. We are still trying to offer the same quality level and service and look to better economic times in the future."

The downturn made Spectrum take a good look at its plans for the extended stay hotel, Isom said.

Instead of scaling back some of the trimmings like the entertainment room with a Wii, the Wilkesboro-based business spent extra money to bring the pool indoors, added a spa and install walk-in showers instead of the bathtub-shower unit.

"We are hoping that we are tapping into a segment that is not being served at this time," Isom said. "Now is the time to do something extremely nice, appeal to the customer a little more."

Hotel management for each of the hotels insists they are bringing in a product that touches a specific segment of the traveling population.

Briggs said the four-story Courtyard by Marriott, which boasts six suites and three Jacuzzi rooms, is marketed toward a different kind of clientele than the Holiday Inn Express across town. Marriott refers to them as the "optimistic achievers," he said.

Briggs said Gateway's Hampton Inn is doing well at the moment, and he hopes for similar results once the 94-room hotel opens on June 17.

Marriott changed some of the requirements for its new prototype of The Courtyard, which is why the hotel took longer to complete, Briggs said.

"We are wanting to fill it up," he said. "We are seeing some of the occupancy percentage go back up."

Even though the economy hasn't rebounded, Gateway is shopping for real estate for its next hotel.

Holiday Inn Express Owner Jay Patel was at a conference in Texas this week and unavailable for comment.

Statesville Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Libba Barrineau said the two new hotels' locations on both interstates is a coup for the hospitality business.

She said frequent travelers tend to be brand loyal. The two hotels give Statesville more identifiable brand recognition along the two interstates.

And even if these two hotels are booked, it might point travelers toward Statesville's other hotel rooms, she said.

"Hopefully, it enables us to take some of the business we've lost to Mooresville because they have those brands and bring it back to Statesville," Barrineau said.


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