Hotel revenue rising, occupancy declining

CVB working to fill rooms

Hotel revenues in Owensboro jumped $600,000 in 2017 to a record $24.5 million.

But occupancy rates dropped from 56 percent in 2016 to 54 percent last year.

“We are at a critical point,” Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, told his board last month.

 “South Frederica is declining,” he said. “Our challenge is to be able to fill more hotel rooms. Best Western (on Goetz Drive) and TownePlace Suites (in Gateway Commons) will be opening this year. We have to create more reasons for people to come to Owensboro.”

Last year, the CVB reported that the occupancy rate for local hotels had jumped 20 percent — from 57.47 percent in 2015 to 69 percent in 2016.

But that turned out to not be the case, Calitri said.

“In collecting this data, the CVB is holding ourselves to a higher standard now,” he said. “We’ve got a new comprehensive system for data collection. We are using Smith Travel Research, which is a national company specializing in hotel information and statistics.”

And Smith Travel found the error in the previous year’s numbers. reported recently that the average occupancy rate for hotels nationally in 2017 was 65.9 percent — well above the local rate.

And nearly 300 new hotel rooms will be coming online in Owensboro in the next two years.

“Hopefully, a larger room supply will bring in more large conventions and will help us all,” Matthew McCloud, general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Downtown Owensboro Waterfront, said recently. “But the Frederica Street hotels will have to fight.”

Ruth Ann Dearness, CVB chairwoman, agreed.

“Hopefully, they will help bring in large conventions and tournaments that we can’t handle now,” she said. “It’s very difficult for us to attract conventions with 300, 400 or more people now. “

Calitri said room rates continued to rise here in 2017 to an average of $91.44 a night.

That’s up from $89 in 2016 and $71.62 back in 2011 before the Owensboro Convention Center and Smothers Park were completed.

“This is a crucial time for Owensboro and Daviess County,” Calitri said. “We must find new ways to create demand for our hotels and continue to attract first-class events. This could mean building new sports facilities or expanding older ones.”

Last month, the CVB board approved a $12,500 contract with Pinnacle Indoor Sports of Louisville for a study of the community’s needs for sports facilities.

Norm Gill, a partner in the 18-year-old firm, will have results ready by the board’s April meeting, Calitri said.

“We need to find out if we need a large multipurpose indoor sports facility and whether we need to develop more fields at Fisher Park,” he said.

The Next Level, a privately owned indoor sports facility at 105 Carlton Drive, brought a lot of tournaments to town in the past six years.

But it closed suddenly earlier this year.

Calitri said, “We’re not going to steer the study in any direction. We want good, honest feedback. If there’s no demand, we’ll walk away from this. We’re looking at everything indoors and outdoors but aquatics. It’s a leap of faith.”

The study will look at the needs of such sports as basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, rugby, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, futsal, gymnastics, cheerleading and wrestling.

Also in February, the CVB voted to give Kentucky Wesleyan College $20,000 to build restrooms at three of its sports fields — softball, baseball and soccer.

And KWC will allow the CVB to schedule tournaments at its facilities — including Panther Park, the college’s 500-seat baseball stadium.

Strong year expected

The CVB is expecting a strong year in 2018.

But it’s concerned about the years ahead.

The $15.3 million International Bluegrass Music Center at Second and Frederica streets will have a big grand opening celebration this fall.

But the date hasn’t been set yet.

ROMP Fest, on June 27-30 in Yellow Creek Park will be headlined by Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush.

And it’s hoping to top the 26,000 tickets it sold last year.

O.Z. Tyler Distillery will become the western gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail this summer.

The trail drew more than 1 million visitors last year.

And if even one-tenth of those visit the Owensboro distillery, that would be 100,000 people.

On the sports scene, Owensboro will be softball central this fall when 125 to 150 adult softball teams from across the country roll into town for the 2018 NSA Super World Series.

Jared Bratcher, the CVB’s sports marketing director, estimates that the three-day tournament, scheduled for Oct. 5-7, will have an economic impact of more than $2.2 million on the community.

That’s the minimum, he said.

The tournament, which Bratcher calls the “granddaddy of all adult softball tournaments,” is expected to draw between 6,250 and 7,500 people from across the country.

The opening of the new $68 million Smothers Park downtown in the late summer of 2012 launched a rebirth in local tourism, which had dropped off after the 2008 closing of the Executive Inn Rivermont, western Kentucky’s largest hotel.

In January 2014, the Hampton Inn & Suites and the Owensboro Convention Center both opened on the riverfront by the park.

In 2015, the Holiday Inn Owensboro Riverfront opened on the west side of the convention center.

The two new downtown hotels and a convention center brought back conventions that hadn’t been in Owensboro in a decade or more.

Jack Wells and Matt Hayden’s Riverfront JAM announced plans in 2016 for a 110- to 120-room hotel across Second Street from the convention center.

Construction is expected to start late this year — or early in 2019 — and take approximately a year to complete.

Downtown hasn’t had three hotels in half a century.

And those three — The Planters House, Rudd Hotel and Downtown Motor Inn — were well past their prime by the 1960s.

The addition of a third downtown hotel will bring the number of rooms within a block of the convention center to about 400.

The Executive Inn Rivermont, which used to sit on the site of the convention center, began with more than 600 rooms.

But by the time it closed in 2008, it was down to about 260.

The Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau says there are 1,369 rooms currently in town.

When the three new hotels come online that number should rise to about 1,650.

That might be a record.

In 2006, the Owensboro-Daviess County Tourist Commission — the CVB’s predecessor — issued a report citing a “hotel room crisis,” saying that the city had only 1,369 hotel rooms.

The total dipped below 1,000 when the Executive Inn closed in 2008 and has slowly built back up to the level it was at a decade ago.

Messenger-Inquirer article written by Keith Lawrence, [email protected]

Year Receipts Occupancy

2017 $24.5 million, 54 percent

2016 $23.9 million, 56 percent

2015: $21.88 million, 57.47 percent

2014: $19.59 million, 57.57 percent

2013: $16.07 million, 58.5 percent

2012: $15 million, 57.85 percent

2011: $12.38 million, 53.16 percent

2010: $12.19 million, 53.52 percent

2009: $12.87 million, 50.67 percent

2008: $13.937 million, 48.7 percent

2007: $13.93 million, 51.9 percent

2006: $15 million, 45.5 percent

2005: $13.93 million, 45.7 percent

2004: $12.87 million, 40.99 percent

2003: $12.47 million, 39 percent

2002: $12.25 million, 40 percent

2001: $11.8 million, 42.12 percent

2000: $11.5 million, 42.68 percent