Welcome to Durango signs greet the tourists, but the orange neon of No Vacancy probably sends them on their way.
Durango boasts some of the highest hotel occupancy rates in Colorado, reaching 85 percent and higher in August during the height of the tourist season, according to state lodging statistics, but 2013 should be a more inviting year.
For the first time since the Marriott Residence Inn opened in 1997, Durango is about to get a new hotel, according to the Durango Area Tourism Office. In the same period, Durango lost at least two hotels, both on North Main, while others have undergone conversions to condos.
The Holiday Inn & Suites, is set to open by mid-January, which in turn will be followed by another new hotel, a Homewood Suites, scheduled to open early this summer.
The two new inns would add a total of 194 rooms, increasing the citys inventory of 1,734 hotel rooms by 11 percent.
Hoteliers continue to see room for opportunity in Durango.
Tim Zink, portfolio manager for the Tierra Group, the developer of Three Springs, said he gets many inquiries from hotel builders wanting to accommodate the Mercy Regional Medical Center, a regional hospital that serves many patients from outside Durango.
Besides providing a place to stay for families and friends of patients, Zink said a new hotel could serve the outpatient, or the patient who does not need to stay overnight in the hospital but might be advised by their doctor to stay around for a day or two after an operation. A nurse might make a wellness check in the patients hotel room.
So far, however, no hoteliers have committed to building in Three Springs, Zink said.
In another sign of market confidence, established properties such as the Rochester Hotel and Hampton Inn have invested in their properties with remodels, noted Anne Klein with the DATO.
The remodels and arrival of the new hotels coincides with the resurgence of the lodgers tax, which grew by 9 percent in 2011 and possibly 13 percent or more in 2012 (tax revenue from December has not yet been included). The same tax revenue had declined during the recession, falling by 10 percent in 2009.
The hotel business is very cyclical, said Shara Smith-Williams, the general manager of the new Holiday Inn, just west of the interchange of U.S. highways 160 and 550.
One thing we noticed was that there was not as many full-service hotels, said Smith-Williams, who views her main competition as the DoubleTree hotel.
The new Holiday Inn was estimated to cost $7.1 million, according to its building permit filed with the city.
The 81,000-square-feet property will have 116 rooms, a ballroom to accommodate 120 and a breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant called the Sporting News Grill. Market research confirmed Durango could support another sports bar, Smith-Williams said.
While the Holiday Inn will compete for a broad spectrum of customers and guests, from locals eating nachos and watching sports to busloads of tour groups, the Homewood Suites has a more focused approach, going after the extended-stay traveler, the type of guest who stays for a week and needs a kitchen because they cant stomach eating out for every meal.
Frank Mapel is the owner of Homewood Suites as well as the local distributor of Coca-Cola. The hotel will be in front of the Coca-Cola distribution center in Bodo Industrial Park. After considering many alternatives for the property, Mapel decided on an extended-stay hotel because of the lack of hotels serving the business traveler and the advantages of a high-visibility location along South Camino del Rio across from the Durango Mall.
Mapel feels a little jittery about opening a new 78-suite hotel that cost about $6.1 million, according to the building permit.
Its a new venture, and its still not the best of times. Things are not going gangbusters, Mapel said.
But even during the tourist off-season, Klein said it can be hard to find a room in Durango, especially during graduation weekends for Fort Lewis College or kids soccer tournaments.
Smith-Williams said the Holiday Inn is counting on local patronage, in the form of local business meetings as well as Super Bowl and March Madness parties, to stay in business.
In a small town, you cannot survive on tourists. Its so seasonal, Smith-Williams said.