Short-term rentals popular, but create concerns
WENATCHEE — Short-term vacation rentals, made easily-searchable and -bookable by sites like Airbnb and VRBO, are increasingly popular in North Central Washington.
Three hotels coming
Hilton Garden Inn
Where: North of Pybus Public Market on North Worthen Street, next to the Riverwalk Crossing pedestrian bridge.
Owner: A&A Construction of Spokane
Size: 177 rooms, 110,000 square feet, four stories.
Amenities: Pathway connects guests to Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail. Conference facility, on-site bar, breakfast area, swimming pool, fitness room.
Number of workers: 35 to 40 employees
When: Broke ground in September 2017. Slated to open sometime in 2019.
Sleep Inn & Suites
Where: Next to Comfort Suites at the Park in Olds Station
Owners: Steve and Tanya Tramp (Princess Properties)
How big: 85 rooms (25 percent will be suites), 37,610 square feet, three stories.
Amenities: Indoor pool, fitness center, complimentary continental breakfast.
Number of workers: 35 employees to start.
When: Anticipated to break ground in July, with a March 2019 opening.
Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites
Where: Between Second and Third streets, next to Super China Star Buffet, East Wenatchee
Owner: Superior Hospitality Corporation, Gurbir Sandhu. Sandhu also is a partner in Edge Hospitality Corp., which owns the Wenatchee’s Red Lion Hotel.
How big: 99 rooms, five stories. It is being built with modular design to speed construction. Room modules are built in Boise, Idaho, trucked to East Wenatchee and hoisted into place by crane. It is the first hotel to be built in East Wenatchee since 1995.
Amenities: Indoor pool, fitness center, grab-and-go cafe, airport shuttle, WiFi
Number of workers: 35 employees
When: Complete by end of 2018.
Hospitality industry | By the numbers
1,335: Hotel rooms in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee
361: New hotel rooms online by early 2018.
2,708: Hotel rooms in Chelan County, including Wenatchee
62.5 percent: Average 2017 daily occupancy in Wenatchee/East Wenatchee
61.8 percent: Average 2017 daily occupancy in Chelan County
$101.62: Average 2017 daily room rate in Wenatchee/East Wenatchee.
$117.40: Average 2017 daily room rate in Chelan County.
$1.52 million: Amount raised in 2017 by 6 percent hotel motel tax.
$216,457: Amount raised in 2017 by $1 per room per night fee. Expenditures overseen by Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and Tourism Promotion Area Board
Source: Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, Tourism Promotion Board
Wenatchee gears up for more room at the inns
WENATCHEE — Steve and Tanya Tramp see new opportunities ahead for Wenatchee’s hospitality industry.
They’re not alone.
The Wenatchee hoteliers break ground in July on a three-story, 85-room Sleep Inn and Suites in Olds Station. The hotel, expected to be complete by March, is one of three in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee slated to open in the next year that will add 361 rooms to the current 1,335-room inventory. The other two — both already under construction — are the 177-room Hilton Garden Inn near Pybus Public Market and the 99-room Fairfield Inn and Suites near McDonald’s in East Wenatchee.
The Sleep Inn and Hilton Garden Inn are the first new hotels in Wenatchee since 2010 and the Fairfield Inn is the first in East Wenatchee in more than two decades.
The investment — figure roughly $10 million for each hotel — will boost competition among existing hotel properties for guests and employees. Of course, long-term, more rooms can mean more visitors and more money for the entire hospitality industry.
The Tramps’ Sleep Inn will be built just east of the Comfort Suites in the Park they opened in 2009 on property they purchased at the time. The two hotels will be separated by a currently vacant lot being reserved for a future project, possibly a coffee shop, Steve Tramp said.
“We’ve had the property and anticipated building for some time,” he said. “The timing had to be right. Since we opened Comfort Suites, we knew the valley has always needed more rooms. At the time we thought 500 more rooms would be perfect.”
Comfort Suites brought 84 rooms. Springhill Suites by Marriott at 1730 N. Wenatchee Ave., which opened in 2010, provided another 109 rooms. Those hotels opened when the region was still in the grip of the recession.
“Even at that we had a lot of demand and not enough supply,” Tramp said. “What happens so often is we get calls in the summer and the winter from groups who want to meet in Wenatchee because it’s a central point between Spokane and Seattle. Too often, the weekends are full, so groups go out to other communities.”
Wenatchee often handles overflow guests flocking to tourism and outdoor recreation meccas of Leavenworth and Chelan that, combined, have about 1,500 rooms. Wenatchee’s hotel business, though, holds its own in terms of attracting visitors, helped by its central location and easy access to the Gorge, the Cascade Loop, water and snow.
“Wenatchee has a lot going for it,” Tramp said. “There are so many things in the valley that people can do.”
The Wenatchee Valley sees three main types of travelers who book hotel rooms — leisure, business and medical, said Jerri Barkley, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce marketing and communications coordinator.
Occupancy has remained steady with guests recruited by combined sales efforts that include the Wenatchee Convention Center, Town Toyota Center and outdoor sporting events, plus the chamber’s tourism promotions, focused mostly on visitors from the Puget Sound region. The concern — and the telltale sign that more rooms are needed — is the increase in average daily room rates while occupancy rates stayed the same, she said.
The arrival of the new hotels means even more sales people out there trying to attract visitors to Wenatchee, so the pie will grow rather than the pieces getting smaller, Barkley said.
The lodging tax dollars generated by the new hotels will add to the marketing effort.
“We hope the occupancy will stay the same and we will fill the additional rooms,” Barkley said.
Patrick Norlin, the chamber’s sports tourism and outdoor recreation coordinator, said he isn’t sure how big of an impact the new rooms will have on the region’s ability to attract new sporting events, but it should ease the space crunch on existing events.
That includes April’s Triple Crown, a 120-team multi-state boys baseball tournament for ages 10 to 14 — and their families.
“For the Triple Crown, people are staying in every possible room they can find, from Waterville to Leavenworth to Chelan. More rooms will make it more convenient for people if they can stay closer,” he said. “And if they have a better time, they’re more apt to come back, so that could help with the health of the tournament.”
The Winter Special Olympics is the other sporting event that pushes the limits on hotel space.
The question of adding events is more limited by the number of ballfields, he said.
“We are excited that we will have more rooms,” Norlin said. “We will have to wait and see what that opens up in term of events. It’s difficult for the community to do a bunch of Triple Crowns over and over.”
He is in discussion with a couple of new groups, though, including hockey, adult softball and the U.S. Quidditch group — “Yes, like in Harry Potter,” he said.
As it is, sports tourism accounts for 27,513 room nights a year and the 161 events Norlin tracks have an economic impact of $8.2 million a year.
Barkley said having too many hotels is not a concern at this point.
Competition for rooms might be stronger, but she doesn’t believe that will hurt overall occupancy rates.
“There will be a swell. Everyone is interested in the new ones. But competition is always good,” she said. “If they have a good product and good service and the others don’t step up and they’re not paying attention, it could have an impact.”
Many existing hotels have been remodeled in the past few years, not necessarily as a direct result of the incoming hotels, but as part of an ongoing schedule.
One concern in terms of competition might be for employees, she said. Each new hotel is expected to open with about 35 workers.
“It is difficult to find and hold employees,” Barkley said. “A lot of that has to do with the rate of pay and the schedules. Hotels are a 24/7 business, it’s nights and weekends, not just 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. And it’s seasonal.”
The chamber has been working with the college and worker-training programs on “how to make the hospitality industry more attractive so it can attract more employees,” she said.
On the flip side, the hotels have training programs of their own to teach their employees the soft skills vital to the industry.
Tramp said he is recruiting people now.
“I’m going to be running double crews at Comfort Suites to get managers trained to be ready to open next spring,” he said.
Providing good training is one of the lessons he’s learned in the past 25-plus years.
Overall, he said, Wenatchee’s hospitality industry is in good shape.
“This is the most fun we’ve had in 25 years in the business. We are excited. There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t love what we’re doing. I love this business,” he said.
Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151