Nearly 2,700 New Hotel Rooms are Planned for Columbia

Tourism groups want more money to market the added hotel units

June 29, 2008

By Jeff Wilkinson – The State

Nearly 2,700 new hotel rooms are planned for greater Columbia over the next 18 months, increasing the city’s stock by a remarkable 26 percent.

But at the same time, local governments are cutting the money they give to the organizations charged with marketing the area and filling those rooms.

Funding for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau is expected to drop about $300,000. And money that goes to Capital City/Lake Murray Country is expected to be down about $100,000.

The money largely comes from taxes on restaurant meals and hotel rooms. Local governments decide how to spend the tax revenue, and, this year, they reduced the amount given to the marketing agencies.

This comes at a time when, because of higher gas prices and the teetering economy, travelers and meeting planners are looking for more affordable locations like Columbia for vacations and conventions, said Tom Sponseller, executive director of the Hospitality Association of South Carolina.

Hotel occupancy rates are down — about 5 percent — in Charleston and Hilton Head, and down 4.3 percent statewide, Sponseller said. But the occupancy rate has stayed steady in Columbia — 63.9 percent in May of this year, down only slightly from 64 percent last May.

As a result, the average price for a Columbia hotel room has risen to $75.55 a night this year from $71.70 last year.

“When the demand is constant, you get more price,” Sponseller said.

While construction of some of those 2,500 rooms could be delayed because of the slowing economy, hoteliers remain confident in Columbia’s steady market, Sponseller said.

New properties are being built on the outskirts of the city to take the first shot at attracting travelers off the interstates. And downtown has become attractive for more new upscale hotel properties and renovations of older ones.



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