July 16--SPRINGFIELD -- Business travelers and a recovering economy are driving a demand for more overnight stays in Springfield, a factor that is helping drive millions of dollars in investment and renovations at several area hotels.
Hotel occupancy rates spiked more than 11 percent from 2012 to 2013 and have improved slightly again this year, said Chris Schutte, director of marketing and the convention and visitor's bureau for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Area hotels are responding to that demand, and several have made significant renovations, while new construction is also underway.
"All of the hotels choosing to do this more or less in tandem reflects the fact their occupancy rates are up, their revenue is up," Schutte said. "I think now they feel more freedom to reinvest."
Some of those recent projects include:
--Construction of a multi-million dollar, three-story, 83-room Holiday Inn Express at 204 Raydo Circle along Leffel Lane in Springfield.
--$1.2 million in interior renovations at the Fairfield Inn, 1870 W. First St. in Springfield. That project was completed in February of this year.
--A $250,000 investment at the Simon Kenton Inn to build three luxury treehouses to accommodate additional guests.
--The Courtyard at Marriott in downtown Springfield underwent renovations to rooms and the first floor that were completed in 2012. The hotel is currently planning to upgrade furniture in all its rooms.
Other hotels, including the Red Roof Inn and Hampton Inn on Leffel Lane, have also undergone recent renovations, Schutte said.
The most recent figures available show hotel occupancy rates have increased 2 percent over last year. While that may not seem like a lot, coupled with the occupancy rate spike between 2012 and 2013, overall it is a good sign, Schutte said.
Revenue per Available Room, a metric used by the industry to measure how well hotels are able to fill rooms and make a profit, is also up about 3.5 percent compared to last year, Schutte said. That figure had spiked about 15 percent between 2012 and 2013 as the economy continued to bounce back from the recent recession.
Much of the spike in recent years was related to an uptick in business travel, Schutte said. But the chamber has also tried to attract conferences and conventions and more residents are taking day trips as the economy recovers, he added.
The tourism industry is important to Springfield's economy because if visitors have a good experience, they're more likely to return or promote the area, said Tom Franzen, director of economic development in Springfield. That can lead to more businesses and jobs in the long-term, he added.
"It's why we need to continue to invest in all the infrastructure here from the gateways and entry boulevards and the signage and those types of things to make sure that when people are visiting here they have a pleasant experience," Franzen said.
Construction at the new Holiday Inn Express on Raydo Circle is on schedule, said Doug Cox, a broker with Levine Realty who helped market the site. Work like electrical and plumbing is starting, and the hotel could be open in 60-90 days.
"We have a very high occupancy level at our hotels and motels," Cox said. "That's a real tribute to our visitor's bureau."
The new treehouses at the Simon Kenton Inn were built due to demand for more lodging, said Theresa Siejack, owner of the property. The Inn frequently hosts weddings, and the treehouses were a way to offer another option for guests, she said. Once the Inn is booked, Siejack said she frequently also recommends other area hotels where space might be available. She said both leisure and business travel have picked up.
At the Fairfield Inn, the recent renovations included a new fitness center, roof and an expanded breakfast area, among other improvements, said Briana Baer, general manager. The renovations were required in part to renew the hotel's contract with Marriott, she said, but also because of additional interest from customers to rent rooms.
"We've seen a lot of additional demand at our facility," Baer said. "I think the renovations have contributed."