Baton Rouge Metro Airport is looking to add a hotel and restaurant to its north Baton Rouge terminal in hopes of growing airport revenue and adding convenience for travelers.
The airport’s board of commissioners accepted a request for proposals from Holiday Inn representatives to explore building a 147-room hotel with a Mike Anderson’s Seafood. Holiday Inn representatives are still studying the market, but they are expected to make a determination in the next couple of months on whether they can build the hotel.
“I look at revenue streams, and when I see a hotel with all the amenities and a Mike Anderson’s restaurant, I say, ‘There’s a secondary revenue stream,’ ” said Airport Director Anthony Marino.
The Holiday Inn could prove to be a lucrative deal for the airport. The money for construction would come from the developers, and the airport would not be involved in financing it.
Marino said terms of the proposed contract stipulate the airport is to receive at least $280,000 a year out of the deal. Of that money, $30,000 would come from the yearly land rental. The hotel and restaurant would also have to pay either 6 percent of its annual gross sales or $250,000 a year — whichever is greater.
Building at the airport could also have perks for the developers. They would not have to pay property taxes on the hotel’s land because the airport, as an enterprise zone, does not pay property taxes.
Still, a hotel at the airport would be competing against a Hilton Garden Inn, a Spring Hill Suites and Microtel Inn and Suites across the street on Harding Boulevard. Each of those hotels has the word “airport” in its name.
Their owner, Richard Preis, said the airport is too late to the game to be successful.
He said he tried to join forces with the airport when he built his hotels in the 1990s, but it didn’t work out. His hotels, which he said normally run with occupancy rates between 75 and 80 percent, are filled by people who come to do business with Baton Rouge companies such as ExxonMobil and Southern University.
Asked if the market can sustain another hotel attached to the airport, Preis said, “In my opinion, no way.”
He said one of the biggest problems with building a hotel at the airport is the proximity of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. His hotels are also near the prison but have better visibility on Harding Boulevard.
Metro Councilman and Airport Commissioner Trae Welch said it’s up to the developers to determine whether the Holiday Inn would oversaturate the north Baton Rouge hotel market.
“That’s part of the due diligence that the hotels are doing,” Welch said. “The only thing the airport’s doing is providing the land. … This is private developers with an opportunity to see whether it even works. People aren’t going to finance it if they can’t put the science behind the money.”
Marino said they should be successful because the Holiday Inn brand is not already in north Baton Rouge. He also said they have a built-in client base in the 40 or so pilots and flight crew members who overnight in Baton Rouge and like to stay as close to the terminal as possible.
Marino said the Mike Anderson’s restaurant could be a real boon in north Baton Rouge, since the area has so little economic development and few restaurants. He also said the airport has been wanting to add a hotel for a decade but that the timing was never quite right.
The entrance to the airport’s parking garage was curved with the expectation that they might add a hotel next to it one day, Marino said. He said the hotel would be attached to the parking garage and enclosed between the garage and the airport.
Airport officials have been clawing for new business ideas to raise revenue. With fewer airlines and flights available, Marino is a fan of using business to give the airport a monetary boost.
He said he liked the Holiday Inn and Mike Anderson’s proposal from Gonzales-based Bear Brothers LLC because of the name brands involved. Bear Brothers is made up of the Robert family, who owns the Gonzales Mike Anderson’s and Harry Robert Insurance Agency.
They could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The other proposal to build at the airport came from Starwood Hotels, represented by Velvet Pines developers, based in Mandeville.
A study in November 2015 identified that two-thirds of travelers who live near enough to use the Baton Rouge airport routinely fly out of other airports, instead. Figuring out how to entice more travelers to fly in and out of Baton Rouge rather than neighboring airports such as the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport also is a priority.
Adding a hotel to the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport might give Baton Rouge the convenience factor that helps it beat out another airport, Marino said.
“It’s just one more convenience factor for going in and out of Baton Rouge,” Welch said. “We’re doing our best to make it convenient; we’re doing our best to make it easy.”