Area’s relative growth brings an uptick in demand for rooms

By Corene Brisendine

Manhattan has not only grown as a community, but it is also growing in tourism and attractions. That means more hotel space, too.

Karen Hibbard, vice president of the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the growth is a rarity in the state and across the nation, where many communities are still trying to recover from the 2008 recession.

In the last five years, Manhattan has built four hotels, and two more are slated to be completed by 2014. Prior to the building boom that began in 2008, Manhattan had nine hotels, and only two had been built in this century. Like rental property in Manhattan, hotel rooms are in high demand.

Manhattan has 1,263 hotel rooms currently available, and in 2014 that number is expected to increase to 1,452 with the addition of The Bluemont Hotel at the northeast corner of Bluemont and Manhattan Avenues and the Holiday Inn Express in the south-end redevelopment district.

Hibbard said Manhattan is not like other communities near Interstate 70. Because it is removed by nine miles from that highway, people have to have a reason to come in to town. She said hoteliers have told the visitor’s bureau that is not a problem on weekends, given the prevalence of university-related events.

As for the weekdays, she said the visitor’s bureau tries to bring conferences to town. On average, a conference brings 250-350 attendees. Hibbard said a recent conference of a major dieting group held at the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center brought about 250 people, and the conference booked rooms in three different hotels. The Kansas Farm Bureau’s annual conference last fall drew about 1,000 participants from across Kansas.

Smith Travel Research reports that Manhattan’s hotels averaged almost 65 percent capacity in 2012, which is up by almost 3 percent from 2011. However the occupancy rates have been slowly declining with each new hotel added since 2008.

Even so, the cost of renting a room has increased. In the 2012 Convention and Visitors Bureau Annual Report, room costs were estimated to have gone from about $65 per night to about $87 per night, even with the addition of more than 200 rooms within the last year. Hibbard said part of that has to do with the number of rooms available, and what is going on in Manhattan. “From month to month, from event to event, if it is a high-demand event, the rates go up,” Hibbard said.

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