|By Steve Lackmeyer, The Oklahoman,
Oklahoma CityMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 6, 2010 --John Sweeney is celebrating the opening of his company's latest hotel, Staybridge Suites, even as the industry suffers its worst slump in a decade.
"I got a phone call the other day from a bank that is looking for operators because of foreclosures," said Sweeney, vice president of Kusum Hospitality. "But that's going on elsewhere; it's not going on here."
Memorial Road in Oklahoma City stands as testament to the city's rapidly changing hotel industry where construction is continuing while hotels in other cities are closing. The first hotel along the busy retail corridor opened a decade ago. With the opening of Staybridge at Memorial Road and May Avenue (2740 NW 138) and several others coming, the corridor soon will be home to almost a dozen hotels.
Sweeney's extended-stay hotel features a full hot breakfast bar; courtyard with a swimming pool, fireplace and grill; and a schedule that includes dinners three nights a week and complimentary wine and beer nights.
The $8.1 million, 106-room hotel opens amid a grim report for the industry by PKF Hospitality Research.
"The pervasive economic distress that characterizes the U.S. today has led to what will be an unprecedented decline in U.S. hotel performance," the hotel research company recently reported. "According to the latest national forecast by PKF Hospitality Research, revenue per available room will fall 13.7 percent in 2009, the largest one-year drop experienced by U.S. hotels since the firm began compiling data in 1936."
While the national industry is doing badly, both Sweeney and Jeff Penner, executive director for the Greater Oklahoma City Metro Hotel Association, say the local market is holding its own.
Sweeney's hotel group is seeing business staying stable among its Northwest Expressway properties, but he admits competition is tough in Norman where the room count has doubled in the past year or so.
"The industry is certainly down for us," Penner said, "but it could be much worse. Look at Florida and California, and that's where you have very bleak numbers. But we have a lot of room inventory coming along the next few months, and that will be a hindrance to us."
Area is promising
Sweeney's group started construction on the Staybridge just as the economy began to crash in late 2008. The group put another hotel on hold, a planned Bricktown Holiday Inn Express, but determined the market was still too promising to pass up along Memorial Road.
"You look at the traffic counts, and when you're looking at where to invest your money, you go where the population is," Sweeney said.
"The mall is a draw, and you look at the restaurants running higher in total sales than anywhere else. This is where the population is.
"If you go somewhere, do you want to go somewhere there is nothing to do or where there are a lot of places within walking distance?"
Sweeney's confidence is also boosted by the continued office development along Memorial Road, most notably the opening of a AAA call center and office complex.
"There are people who are going to sit around and complain and others who are going to go out and get the business," Sweeney said.
"We are investing in our company; we have a sales staff for the first time. In the past, we just relied on our brands -- and you could do that. But we've hired a sales staff of four. Others are going around cutting payroll and staff. You can't quit breathing to save air. Business travel is still going on. Business hasn't stopped. We just have to go after it."
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