|By Marla Matzer Rose, The Columbus
Dispatch, OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 21, 2011--The Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel is more than a year from opening but already is booking rooms -- at an average price higher than hotel officials had projected.
Still, the publicly financed $140million hotel -- being built across High Street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center -- is running 18 percent behind its goal for bookings, the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority board was told at its meeting yesterday.
The hotel, scheduled to open in September 2012, expects to catch up on bookings now that it has hired two new senior sales managers in Columbus.
The 532-room hotel has a goal of booking more than 80,000 room-nights by the time it opens. So far, it has booked about 8,200, mostly for 2013 and beyond.
"We've brought together a very strong sales team, and we feel optimistic about the future," said Julia Hansen, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton Columbus Downtown.
The Hilton had projected its rate at $140 per night, said Bill Jennison, executive director of the convention facilities authority. But booking prices have been averaging about 15percent higher than that.
He agreed with Hansen that it's too early to say whether the hotel will command the highest rates in the Columbus area, though he said that's the hope. In recent years, that title has been held by the Hilton Columbus at Easton.
The Hilton Columbus Downtown, the chain's largest "new build" project under way in the U.S., is a major focus for Hilton as it works to book conventions, said Ted Ratcliff, senior vice president of operations for the company's eastern U.S. region.
Hilton has tapped the talents of other venues to meet its booking goals. Its new sales staff members are Andrea Barker, who was hotel group sales manager at the Doubletree by Hilton Columbus/Worthington, and Wendy Nicodemus, who comes from the Quest Conference Center on the Far North Side.
Only groups are being booked now. Individual bookings may not be available until six months before the opening date, Hansen said.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
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