Odessa has reaped many benefits from its economic and population booms, but the high occupancy rates in the city’s hotels are creating a problem for anyone coming into town.
Odessa Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Linda Sweatt said the number of overnight visitors or delegates booking rooms through the CVB is down from last year.
Sweatt said by the end of March, the CVB’s delegate count totaled around 41,334 people booking rooms. The delegate count is down around 20 percent compared to its delegate numbers from the last fiscal year, Sweatt said.
And it’s all due to the lack of vacancies in Odessa hotels.
Sweatt said because hotels are full, the CVB is finding it more difficult to convince tourists to stop and stay in Odessa.
“We’re missing out on tourists not coming in that we might have gotten if there were rooms available,” Sweatt said. “They’re just going to reroute to other areas.”
The high hotel occupancy rates were enough for the CVB to lose a major booking that would have probably been made had there been more hotel rooms available, Sweatt said.
On Monday, the CVB were told that they lost out on a bid to bring the USA Junior Olympic Track and Field program to Odessa in July. The program would have brought around 2,500 athletes to town.
“They could not find rooms, so they are going to Lubbock. That will be some numbers coming off our count,” Sweatt said. “This was just a huge track meet coming in. Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem.”
Due to the apartment shortage also occurring, many industrial companies have resorted to booking blocks of hotel rooms at a time as a way to provide temporary housing for their employees.
Because the industrial workers occupy the hotels mostly during the work week, last minute reservations are difficult to come by, especially if it’s for a group of people.
Sweatt said the CVB is already booking rooms for groups as far in advance as 2016.
For the 2012-2013 fiscal year, more than 10,525 delegates and 23 groups have already made hotel reservations. For 2013-2014, 175 delegates have reservations, and for 2014-2015, 700 delegates already have hotel rooms booked.
And if any last minute reservations are made, it will come at a hefty price.
The average price of a hotel room in Odessa is anywhere from $200 to $275 a night, Sweatt said. In December, the Odessa American reported that the average price a night ranged from $46.70 to $114.84.
“The rates are just astronomical. They’re definitely inflated,” said Ed Parker, regional sales manager for Goliath Industries. “It’s strictly supply and demand, and there’s a lot of demand.”
Parker said two representatives from workforce housing provider Goliath Industries recently came to Odessa and had to stay at two different hotels to find adequate accommodations. The representatives paid around $250 a night for two days, Parker said.
“There’s not too many places in the country you can’t find a hotel half that much,” Parker said. “Any place that there is an oil boom, they’re comparable rates.”
While the high occupancy rates and increased prices might deter some people from coming into town, Sweatt said it is unlikely that occupancy tax and sales tax revenues will be negatively affected.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a decrease in occupancy and sales tax,” Sweatt said. “As long as those hotels are full, they’re bringing in the occupancy tax. There are so many people that are here. They’re still going to purchase things.”
Sweatt said until new hotels, apartments and work camps are built, there is no telling how long the hotel problem is going to last.
Odessa is, however, gearing up for a big hotel boom soon.
On April 16, ground broke for the first Microtel Inn and Suites on 50th Street. The hotel is expected to be open by the end of the year and will include 79 rooms and 12 suites.
And Alex Singh, owner of La Quinta Inn and Suites on Faudree Road, is already working with the City Planning and Zoning Department to construct two more hotels in east Odessa and the Faudree area.
Together, the two hotels will include approximately 200 rooms, Singh said.
“We are waiting for approval from the city to build a hotel as soon as possible,” Singh said.
In the mean time, the City of Odessa is working with Goliath Industries to bring in work force housing.
On April 10, Odessa City Council members approved an industrial district agreement with Goliath to facilitate industrial workforce housing on 50.02 acres near East Murphy Street and East Interstate 20.
Parker said the facility will be able to house around 800 to 1,000 beds, with amenities such as on-site catering, housekeeping and recreational facilities.
Parker said if the industrial district designation is approved at the council’s May 8 meeting, construction will begin as early as July with housing available by August.
“It’s definitely good for short term, because we can (construct) it quickly,” Parker said. “When it does curtail, we can move these camps elsewhere.”