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Holiday Inn Express might build new hotel in Salisbury

SALISBURY — Holiday Inn Express is eyeing Salisbury for a new hotel.
Just a year after opening the Courtyard Marriott on East Innes Street, developer BPR Properties has submitted detailed plans to the city of Salisbury for a second new hotel — a four-story, 90-room Holiday Inn Express, which would stand next to the Courtyard Marriott. The plans appear on the agenda for the June 19 meeting of the city’s Technical Review Committee, which considers engineering and technical issues for proposed developments.
Local tourism leaders said they were thrilled with the news.
“This says our market is great,” said Bill Burgin, chairman of tourism board that oversees tourism marketing efforts for Salisbury and Rowan County.
Interest in Salisbury from Holiday Inn Express comes after the city lost a longtime Holiday Inn on Jake Alexander Boulevard. The Wallace family in June 2013 dropped their Holiday Inn franchise and renamed their property Hotel Salisbury & Conference Center. Hotel Salisbury has had fewer reservations since the change.
While the potential new hotel “has a lot to do with Holiday Inn leaving,” developers also consider the market, land availability and the regional economy, said James Meacham, executive director for the Rowan County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Burgin said a potential second new hotel vindicates the city’s push six years ago to levy a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax.
In 2008, Rowan County commissioners, who were already levying a 3 percent hotel room tax, turned down Salisbury City Council’s request to double the tax to boost tourism marketing. City leaders turned to state lawmakers, who gave Salisbury the authority to levy its own hotel room tax.
Since then, the county and city tourism boards have merged a significant portion of their revenue to create a joint marketing fund, which has become an example across the state.
“It was actually a victory for the county,” said Burgin, who served on City Council during the battle over hotel room taxes. “We’ve demonstrated that we do have a program we can sell and market and bring people into the county, and it didn’t cost our local taxpayers any money.”
Visitors pay the hotel room occupancy taxes.
When it opened, Courtyard Marriott was the city’s first new hotel in 13 years. Meacham said he cannot divulge the Courtyard’s occupancy rate but said they hotel is doing extremely well.
Hotel developers consider expanding into markets that consistently have more than 60 percent occupancy in existing hotels, Meacham said. Hotel occupancy continues to increase in Rowan, with revenue from hotel room taxes breaking another record in April.
March had been the best month for hotel room tax revenue since officials began keeping records in the 1980s. April surpassed March, with visitors paying $66,590 in hotel occupancy taxes, up 7.2 percent from the previous year.
Officials expect May to break the record again, considering all Rowan County hotels were booked for Streamliners at Spencer, a four-day train festival in Spencer that sold more than 9,200 tickets.
Rowan County is still a small hotel market with fewer than 900 total rooms.
“We will have the capacity to grow,” Meacham said. “The Courtyard Marriott has been an excellent example of a well-run new business leading to other potential new development.”
Meacham said hotel developers are more often building two or even three properties next to each other in a relatively short time, taking advantage of efficiencies such as sharing a general manager or housekeeping service.
In Salisbury, business travelers are keeping hotels busy during the week, and increased marketing and multi-day events are luring more weekend overnight visitors, Meacham said.
“The addition of all the weekend activities helps move the occupancy needle,” he said.
The proposed Holiday Inn Express will go before Salisbury Planning Board and City Council.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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