Hotel Bookings Stable, or Better, Operators Say

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Bookings at the new Residence Inn by Marriott in Niles leave little doubt as to why its operator, TMI Hospitality, plans to move forward with a companion property nearby, a Hampton Inn & Suites.

“We are seeing a lot of consistency and our occupancy is running in the mid-80s,” reports Michele Janci, director of sales at the Residence Inn and at the Hampton Inn when it opens.

The launch last May of the 103-room Residence Inn, attached to the Eastwood Mall, was the most successful opening in the history of TMI Hospitality. Since Jan. 1, the property has exceeded monthly goals for both rates charged and occupancy, according to Janci.

“One primary market right now is General Motors,” she says. The automaker is gearing up for production of the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze at its Lordstown plant. “We have a lot of extended-stay occupancy for them and a lot of transient business,” she says.

The medical industry also is a primary driver of business at the property, Janci adds.

The Residence Inn Eastwood property helps account for a 12% increase in bed taxes collected in Trumbull County the first quarter over the same quarter a year ago.

During the first three months, bed tax collections in the county were $153,154.23, up from $136,773.67 the same period in 2014.

The Niles hotel has “definitely outperformed” expectations for the property says Dave Mangus, TMI area director in Canfield. “That was a great location for us to be on the mall property,” he says.

Performance in the Youngstown-Warren market is down, particularly compared to a few years ago, Mangus says. Youngstown-Boardman is flat year over year but down from 2012 and 2013, a result of the slowdown in the oil and gas industry, he says.

In Mahoning County, bed tax collections for the first quarter totaled $310,162.99, up about 4% from the same period in 2014.

TMI, based in Fargo, N.D., has three hotels in Poland Township: a Residence Inn, a Hampton Inn and a Fairfield Inn.

“Mahoning County has probably reached its saturation point,” particularly with a DoubleTree by Hilton coming to downtown Youngstown, Mangus says. That hotel, to be developed in the Stambaugh Building by NYO Property Group, was officially announced last November.

“Everybody out there just has to be on top of their game,” Mangus says, given the market and lack of a driver such as oil and gas, as was the case earlier.

That isn’t necessarily bad, Mangus says. Last year, TMI renovated the Poland Hampton and will convert the Fairfield there into a suite-only property.

Owners of existing properties “are going to be putting a lot of money into improving their properties, which is actually a good thing,” he says.

A new property that came on line this year in Mahoning County is the Best Western Boardman Inn and Suites. The property follows the newest Best Western prototype and is “very modern,” says owner Ash Kochar.

Opened since February, business is picking up at the hotel, Kochar reports. Weekends, mostly leisure traffic, are “pretty much solid” and weekday business is mostly business travel, he reports.

“There’s a little bit of oil and gas business,” he says. “A lot of people are doing construction, or people are staying from Monday through Thursday. They come to the area, do their business and go home.”

At Das Dutch Village Inn in Columbiana, bookings are up 15% over last year, says Grace Witmer Styer, chief operating officer and secretary/treasurer.

“This is probably the best year we’ve ever had,” she reports. “We’re having a really good year despite the cold weather, very thankfully.”

Performance year-to-date is being driven by increased business traffic, but Styer doesn’t attribute that to any particular segment.

During the past thee years, the hotel has made a “concerted effort” to market directly to area businesses, which appears to be paying off, she says.

“We’re seeing an increase in every market sector,” Styer continues. “We have made an effort to court the local businesses that would have overnight guests” as well as business meetings.

“On weekends we are a really good location for small retreats,” she adds.

Among Das Dutch Village Inn’s features are conference rooms, a 3,500-square-foot ballroom that can be divided in two and a Starbucks in the lobby, Styer says.

Remodeling is an ongoing process there, with a room, lobby or other area addressed every three months or so, she says.

The Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, at the main entrance of the main campus in Kent, has faced a unique challenge since its opening in June 2013, according to its general manager, Michael Riccio.

“There was a misperception early on that we were just for the university, which is simply not the case,” Riccio says. “We have since our opening continued to have people walk in the door asking if we are open to the public.”

The property is “at a place now where we’ve created enough awareness in the community that [people] understand that we’re not just a university hotel and we’re open to the public,” he says.

Occupancy this year at the Kent hotel should reach 67%, up from 59% in 2014, he says. The focus is on driving business and corporate activity Monday through Wednesday “because the other portion of the business was always there.” The location of the hotel put it “right at the edge of downtown Kent,” he says.

“There’s a lot of eating establishments and retail shops in downtown Kent that the majority of people would walk right past to get to, so we’re really in a great location,” he remarks.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.