|By Mary Sell, Montgomery Advertiser,
Ala.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 10, 2011--Embassy Suites in downtown Montgomery has already begun an about $3.5 million renovation. When completed next year, the two-phase makeover will have modernized the hotel that represents more than a quarter of available beds near the Montgomery Convention Center.
Embassy Suites general manager Tom Quatrochi said that the reasoning behind the renovation is two-fold: It's been renovated about every five years since it opened in 1996 and was due for upgrades; and because it needs to compete with its bigger, newer neighbor across Tallapoosa Street. The Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center opened in early 2008.
"We knew that the Renaissance was going to be very formidable," Quatrochi said last week.
"At this point, everyone has tried the Renaissance and it's a great hotel," he said. "But we offer something different. The renovation is coming at the exact right time."
The two hotels, along with the nearby Hampton Inn, which opened in 2008, provide a total of 700 rooms to downtown visitors. Within walking distance from the Convention Center is the recently renamed Clarion Hotel on Madison Avenue. It's also undergone a renovation.
Quatrochi said that his hotel and the Renaissance often work together.
"We realize that we can't do it alone and they can't do it alone," he said.
Renaissance general manager Mike Eveleth seconded that sentiment.
"If the hotels are working together, we can do a lot more than we can working apart and trying to score an extra 10 rooms by undercutting the competition," he said.
He said his hotel often points its overflow guests to the Embassy Suites, and vice versa.
And as of late, the Renaissance has been busy.
"We just finished having the best month the hotel has ever had," Eveleth said. Its occupancy rate for the month of March was 76 percent.
He said association and corporate meetings help make February, March and April the hotel's most in-demand months.
Dawn Hathcock, vice president of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau, said the downtown hotels average occupancy rates in the high 60 to low 70 percent, which is very good.
"Could we use another one in the downtown area, I would say yes," Hathcock said.
Hathcock said she wasn't aware of any plans to reopen the Capitol Inn, which closed in late 2009.
Citywide, Montgomery offers about 7,000 hotel rooms, Hathcock said. But when people are in town for events at the Conference Center, they usually want to stay near it.
"Meeting planners look for rooms either attached to or within walking distance to the Convention Center," Hathcock said.
Renovations and improvements at Embassy Suites include two new flat-screen TVs in each of the 237 suites; renovated wet bars with granite tops; and remodeled bathrooms.
"They were stripped down to the concrete floors and drywall," Quatrochi said about work on the bathrooms.
The renovation began in February and the bathroom renovation phase should be finished later this month. Quatrochi said the work is being done two floors at a time.
Later this year, the carpet, furniture and drapes will be replaced.
"It's very tough to justify the prices you are charging if (a room) isn't in tip-top shape all the time," he said.
Asked about any possible rate changes, Quatrochi said the Embassy Suites will "stay competitive."
Quatrochi said that prior to the renovation, the hotel's occupancy rate was about 70 percent. Now, it's about 60 percent. But that's to be expected.
"When you take 68 rooms out of rotation, it tends to impact your occupancy," he said.
Exterior renovations to the hotel will include replacing portions of the portico and repaving the parking lot.
Additional Facts HOTEL ROOMS NEAR THE CONVENTION CENTER
237 Embassy Suites 345 Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Conven tion Center 82 Hampton Inn 170 Clarion Hotel
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