Despite the weakened oil industry and a struggling local economy, hotels continue to go up around Lafayette, raising the question of whether the city needs more temporary lodging.
For those in the industry, there's a delicate balance between accommodating corporate and leisure travelers and the demand for rooms.
"We have just over 6,000 hotel rooms in Lafayette and business travel and tourism play a huge role in our economy. Because of this, when the oil economy suffers, the hotels suffer, too, because they're missing that corporate travel," said Ben Berthelot, executive director of the Lafayette Convention and Visitor's Commission. "There are some people in the industry who would say that we have enough limited-service properties, and there could be a situation where we don't need that much growth."
Occupancy rates vary from month to month with spring and fall being the best times, underpinned by the scheduling of Festival Acadiens et Creoles and Festival International de Lafayette during those times of the year. There is also far more business travel during these times.
Summers were once slow times for hotels in Lafayette. Now there's a slight bump in recent years coming from the Youngsville Sports Complex and traveling sports teams.
The 98-room hotel Hilton Tru opened at 1310 Camellia Blvd., in River Ranch in November, and three others are under construction: the 94-room Courtyard by Marriott South near Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, an 80-room La Quinta at the corner of Pinhook Road and Jomela Drive and a 102-room TownePlace Suites near the corner of Kaliste Saloom Road and Beaullieu Drive.
With the current price of crude oil sitting at around $50 a barrel, coming off a decline in recent months, these businesses tend to do years of research into markets before they even attempt to get the loans to build new properties.
"Initially, we were surprised to see these new properties going up in this economy, but I'm pretty sure these people have done their research and due diligence, and who am I to second guess them," Berthelot said. "They did all the work and secured loans, which must mean there's a market out there for more hotels and hotel rooms."
Lafayette Parish has a 4 percent hotel/motel tax that the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission receives to promote the area and bring in tourists and business people. Berthelot and his organization pay careful attention to the state of the hotel/motel industry in Lafayette and notice trends.
The oil industry took a downturn toward the end of 2014 when gross hotel/motel receipts were about $86.25 million. The local receipts then took a nosedive in 2015 to barely above $82 million. The downward trend continued in 2016 until the summer floods forced droves of people to take residency in hotels, briefly raising receipts by almost half-million dollars before plunging by about $5.5 million in 2017.
Kevin Dzurik, managing member of Sunrise Hospitality, the north Louisiana-based company behind the Courtyard by Marriott project, said officials believe Lafayette is a vibrant community that is a growing market.
Also, with the coming expansion of the Cajundome Convention Center, more hotels, especially ones built nearby the Cajundome, could help attract more events to the venue. Officials believe the Hilton Garden Inn across the street from the Cajundome won't provide enough rooms once the expansion is completed.
"What would be most productive would be a property next door to our facility," Cajundome director Pam Deville said. "The norm for conventions and conferences and trade shows is to look for communities with a large number of rooms next to the convention center. With just one hotel next to us, it's just not enough. We need more hotels nearby. Even if the existing hotel would just expand, that would be great."
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