Reservations Please; Battle brewing for hotel tenants

Hotels in Beaumont seemed to be thriving about five years ago but some of them are now struggling to fill their rooms. With plans to build a new hotel at Ford Park doubts are being raised about whether the market can handle that much more inventory.

Director of sales at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Beaumont, Donna Woodside said nightly rates have been at a stand-still recently since they don't want to lose customers to other hotels by charging too much.

"When we first opened here it was booming especially when we were the only hotel in this area, then the other properties came so now we're just competing against each other," Woodside said.

A chart created by John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts, which owns Holiday Inn in Beaumont shows occupancy last year was at about 50%. To be profitable, they say a hotel's occupancy rate should be 65-70%.

Less people in rooms, means less money for the people of Beaumont. Hotel occupancy tax is money paid by guests staying in Jefferson County hotels. The hotels then pay cities and counties which use tax dollars to generate more tourism.

However, Ford Park's general manager John Hughes said those numbers aren't an accurate reflection of the hotel market.

"You can slice and dice anyway you want if you just look at the competitive set of hotels similar to the one we're doing here, that number is a lot higher than 50%" Hughes said.

Jefferson County commissioners as well as Beaumont city council approved an incentive package to offer developers of a proposed hotel and water park to be built at Ford Park.

Council member W. L. Pate is the only local elected official, city or county, who is opposed to the building of another hotel. Pate said another in the area will inevitably continue to drive prices down.

"If the demand is high you can charge a higher price," Pate said. "If the demand is low you've got to lower the price that's just how it works."

Pate also said he thinks having the hotel on the Ford Park property creates an unfair advantage over other hotels in the market.

"I don't know about unfair advantage," Hughes said. "I would flip it around and say that for 10 years these baseball fields have been filling up area hotels at no cost to them."

Local hotel owners may not agree on whether there should be another hotel built, but the Ford Park plans are moving forward and an Embassy Suites should be there by 2016.

Since the Ford Park project was announced Hughes said they've already received calls about possible conventions that could bring as many as 4,000 people to the area at once. Far more people than the proposed hotel could hold.

"We believe a hotel of this nature would lift business for everybody," Hughes said.

The hotel developers, Pate Development Co., no relation to Councilman Pate, will fund the $25 - $40 million project, with no cost to the taxpayer.


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