Mayor Scott Avedisian was happy to announce Wednesday that hotel occupancy rates in the city were on the rise, improving 5.7 percent since last year.
President and CEO of the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) Dale Venturini and representatives from the Providence/Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) and the city’s Department of Tourism, Culture and Development joined Avedisian for the press conference at the Hilton Garden Inn, located in the Station Development District.
“Lately we’ve been hearing bad numbers, so I wanted to bring some good numbers,” said Avedisian.
Avedisian said that between January and September this year, the city saw a 5.7 percent increase in hotel occupancy compared to the same period of time in 2012. Specifically, the mayor said that during the summer months, hotel occupancy rates averaged 81 percent, with a 95 percent rate on Fridays and Saturdays in August alone.
“It’s so great to celebrate [this announcement],” said Venturini. “They’re real numbers.”
The city has 16 hotels and over 2,237 rooms. Avedisian also pointed out that in hard economic times, it is the hospitality industry that has prospered.
“We hear we are slipping in all of these areas, but the hospitality industry continues to improve,” said Avedisian. “More people are staying in hotels and they’re paying more to stay there.”
Ward 3 councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who is chair of the Economic Development Committee, also spoke to the success of the hospitality industry.
“I would echo the sentiments of the other speakers to the fact that the only industry with an upward trend is hospitality. No matter how much people complain about funding, they still find the money to travel, whether that be for business or leisure,” said Vella-Wilkinson.
Venturini echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying hospitality was the only industry to grow jobs, and is one of the largest economic drivers in the state, employing 60,000 people.
“Our industry continued to persevere and keep people employed,” said Venturini.
Venturini believes the industry has been able to improve in the city because of the amount of offerings available.
“People have so many choices,” said Venturini, pointing out that the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn has been designed to accommodate people. “You see meetings going on in all parts of the hotel. It’s all about making those connections.”
She also feels Warwick is in the ideal location.
“We have an unbelievable wealth of things to do in the state. Warwick is the heart of the state,” said Venturini, adding it is easy to stay in Warwick but travel throughout the state. “It’s all about ease, they want to be taken care of.”
“We are the center of the state, so it makes sense for people to come here and see the rest of the state,” said Vella-Wilkinson.
Tourism Director Karen Jedson said the successful growth is attributable to a combination of things, including great leadership, new marketing campaigns and the new Interlink, which makes the city a transportation hub for the region. She also pointed out that the city has an excellent partnership with PWCVB.
“The state is working so well together,” said Jedson. “We hope this growth will continue.”
“We’re not just trying to make you think things are better; things are certainly getting better,” said Avedisian, adding that the number of travelers in and out of T.F. Green Airport has also grown. The mayor believes travelers are choosing that airport over Logan Airport in Boston because of how small and easy-to-use it is.
Avedisian praised the Tourism Department for their work marketing Warwick to the rest of New England as a great weekend destination and capitalizing on the amenities offered here, especially through the Stay and Play promotion, which has brought 3,400 visitors to the area since June.
Jedson explained that the promotion has been featured during commercial breaks for morning shows such as “Live with Kelly and Michael” on Channel 5 in Boston. The ads encourage viewers to go to the Tourism Department’s website and sign up for free weekend stays in Warwick.
“A lot of people are finding out about the area through the ads,” said Jedson. She explained that the promotions encourage people from the Boston area to visit Rhode Island for great weekend trips, whether for families, friends or couples. She added that one of the highlights of the promotion is that visitors will stay in Warwick but have the opportunity to visit all the different areas of the state because of the city’s location. The access to Boston’s MBTA train at the train station is also mentioned.
“We’re convenient,” said Jenson. “You can get everywhere.”
Warwick area hotels that participated in the Stay and Play program were able to design their own packages, which Jedson explained ranged from a family package to a romance package. The Hilton Garden was one of the hotels to participate and the month their package was available, 1,800 people signed up.
“Which leads me to believe people are interested in our area,” said Jedson.
The Hilton Garden Inn was chosen as the location for the announcement because it is a prospering hotel in the city, with recently complete renovations to the tune of $450,000.
“It’s nice to know people with vision get things done,” said Avedisian about the work done by the individuals associated with the hotel.
Avedisian also took a moment to acknowledge Kevin Buchanan, the Hilton Garden Inn general manager. Buchanan was named the RIHA’s Hotelier of the Year and was honored last Wednesday evening at RIHA’s annual “Stars of the Industry” celebration at the Convention Center.
“This is the big one as far as our industry in concerned,” said Venturini about the award.
“I’m very excited,” said Buchanan, who has been the general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn since it opened in 2005 and has worked in hospitality for about 20 years. “It’s all about service and my employees have some great employees here. Some have been here since the beginning.”
Avedisian also mentioned that in addition to Buchanan’s success, the Hilton Garden Inn in Warwick has received a number of hospitality recognitions over the years.
“It’s good to see one of our hotels do so well,” said the mayor.