No room at the inn

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2004

This is part one of a three part series about the hotel industry, rental industry and new home industry in the Camilla City.

Despite a recovering economy and above state average unemployment rate, Greenville’s hotel market is holding its own, but the question is for how long?

Greenville is not one of Alabama’s Mecca cities.

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There is no Space Center like there is in Huntsville.

No Civil Rights or Confederacy history neither points neither like Birmingham or Montgomery, nor is there an Southeastern Conference school within an hour’s drive.

Meanwhile, recent activity in the hotel business may show what lies ahead for the Camellia City.

Greenville does capitalize on attractions like Cambrian Ridge and incoming automotive plants.

For those both seeking work and for those seeking relaxation, they are finding there are no rooms in the inns.

Hotels: Construction boom saves city

Ten years ago, Greenville’s hotel availability was left up to only a few properties.

In that time frame, the Hampton Inn, the Comfort Inn, the Econo Lodge, The Jameson Inn and the Best Western have all been constructed. The availability of the hotels leaned heavily on the draw of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

That was the intention, but now, travelers visiting the city for different reasons use the hotels.

If you need numbers, then keep this mind.

Of all the available rooms in Greenville, every one will say they have had a 95 percent occupancy rate or higher since the turn of the year.

&uot;We have been running at a middle 90’s occupancy rate,&uot; said Sam Ellis, general manager of The Jameson Inn.

&uot;I have 40 rooms, actually 42 if you count the two suites and I’ve been filling them all.&uot;

Ellis said a large number of her guests are construction workers building the Hwashin and Hysco plants.

However, she said there are other guests who conduct business around town, including off site managers checking on their local establishments.

&uot;We also have a number of travelers coming to town to play golf,&uot; she said.

&uot;They stay here because we are one of the host hotels for the RTJ Golf Trail.

However, we also have guests who are in town for reunions and such events.

We can’t just say one type of guest is staying here.&uot;

Ellis said while business is good now, she is afraid of more hotel properties opening in the area would be detrimental to the local industry.

&uot;I don’t want anything else to go in here now,&uot; she said.

&uot;While we are all doing a great business now, in the future more hotels could flood the market.&uot;

Ellis said she shares with the other hotels and they share with her when they have no vacancies.

&uot;If I’m full here, I call around and we find people rooms,&uot; she said.

&uot;I’ll call the Hampton and if they have a room, I send them there or I’ll send them to another local hotel.&uot;

She said she has also sent guests to Andalusia, Evergreen and even Atmore because there are no rooms in the area. She often these are travelers without reservations and they can’t believe there no rooms available.

&uot;They’ll come in here on night audit and say ‘Are you sure you don’t have a room? I can’t believe you don’t have a room,’&uot; she said.

Mary Simmons, general manager for Best Western, also located just off I-65 reported her hotel has also experienced a recent boom.

&uot;We have been at near full capacity lately,&uot; she said.

&uot;We have many of the construction workers staying here and we also have some Koreans who work at the plants.&uot;

The Best Western has 45 rooms.

Dennis Patel, who manages the Econo Lodge Motel, said his vacancy rate varies from day to day.

&uot;It’s hard to tell some days because there are days when we are busy and some days we aren’t,&uot; he said.

Hampton Inn’s manager was unable to comment on Friday due to high guest traffic.

The manager of the Best Value Inn and the Comfort Inn were both unavailable for comment.

Coming Wednesday: Does Greenville have enough rental property to support the growth?