ROOM SERVICE: The $4.8 million, 90-room Vib hotel is geared toward millennial business travelers.
Hotel market sets third straight record
With at least four hotels entering the market in the coming year, tourism is on the rise in Springfield.
Tracy Kimberlin, president of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, said tourism travel in town is at record levels. Last year, the number of occupied hotel rooms – the CVB’s statistical measurement of a healthy market – exceeded 1.3 million rooms and represented the third straight year of record growth.
“We do expect it to grow again, which would mean another record in 2017,” Kimberlin said.
The four properties at various stages of development are the Home2 Suites by Hilton at 2756 N. Glenstone Ave., Vib by Best Western at 1845 E. Sunshine St., Holiday Inn Express next to the Macadoodles at 3080 N. Kentwood Ave., and Fairfield Inn near the corner of Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street. Between the projects, the developers’ plans would bring over 400 new rooms to the market.
CVB officials typically consider 65 percent occupancy the tipping point for additional rooms in the market. Springfield’s hotel occupancy rate was 62.4 percent in 2016, up from 59.8 percent in 2015.
“Sometimes it does get a little bit out of whack and overbuilding occurs. Then there are some markets that are underserved when it comes to the hotel rooms,” Kimberlin said. “It has a way of evening out over time.”
In terms of tourism economic impact, southwest Missouri ranks third with $1.9 billion out of five regions statewide, according to the Missouri Division of Tourism. The clear frontrunner is northeast Missouri, including St. Louis, with $5.3 billion, followed by northwest Missouri and Kansas City, at $3.28 billion.
Expenditures in tourism include eating and drinking places; hotels and motels; amusement parks and tourist attractions; commercial sports; public golf courses and swimming pools; camps and trailer parks; boat and canoe rentals; and botanical and zoological gardens.
Kimberlin said of Springfield’s total occupied hotel rooms in 2016, 39.6 percent were in business travel, 37.8 percent for leisure, 9.7 percent for meetings and conventions, 8.9 in miscellaneous travel and 4 percent for people attending or participating in sporting events.
Elliott Lodging Ltd. operates 12 hotels in Springfield and others in Branson, Joplin, St. James and Pittsburgh, Kansas. President Gordon Elliott said the majority of his Springfield customers – 60 percent – are staying for leisure, and the remainder is split between business and group travel.
Elliott Lodging, which last year recorded roughly $25 million in revenue, is investing $4.8 million into the 90-room Vib hotel in order to attract more business customers. New designs for the Best Western flag – minimalistic styling and large social spaces – also are meant to appeal to millennials.
In order to attract customers, hotel operators say they rely heavily on the marketing of their franchisors. Additionally, the Springfield CVB spends about $1.5 million in advertising per year, and marketing efforts are made through radio, TV, magazine and digital platforms.
Kimberlin said Springfield’s typical target audience is a 54-year-old woman – usually the trip planner of a family.
“They are working all the time to get people here,” Elliott said.
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