Still room(s) to grow in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Monday, Feb. 13, 2006

MANCHESTER – Occupancy rates in Manchester hotels are up, average room rates have held steady and the city's hotel market appears strong, independent travel analysts have said.

As of 2005, the overall occupancy rate in Manchester's hotel market was 62.8 percent, an increase from 61 percent in 2004, according to Smith Travel Research, which tracks lodging-industry performance.

The average daily rate for a room in Manchester was a little lower year-over-year, falling to $88.55 from $89.04, Smith said. However, 2004's Presidential primary had such an impact on the city's hotel market that when one takes out January 2004's numbers, the market appears to have had a healthy room-rate growth. "It looks like people have been paying attention — rates are stabilizing, occupancies are increasing," said Jan Freitag, a vice president with Smith Travel Research, based in Hendersonville, Tenn., which follows 17 hotels in the city, with 1,844 rooms.

The Hilton Garden Inn is nearing its opening day in early April just beyond left field at Fisher Cats Ballpark in Manchester's Millyard.

The Manchester market is one which hoteliers, such as David Roedel, a partner with the Roedel Cos., are generally bullish about. Roedel's firm is building a Hilton Garden Inn at the entrance to Fisher Cats Ballpark in Manchester's Millyard.

"We're very positive about Manchester. We've been tracking the market very closely," Roedel said. "We've seen some real positive signs about the market." Not so bullish is hotel owner Jiten Hotel Management, which is scaling back its Manchester-area investments. Brockton, Mass.-based Jiten is in the process of selling three of its city hotels, all under the Marriott flag, to new owners.

The sale should be finalized sometime this week.

The properties being sold are the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Huse Road; the SpringHill Suites, an all-suite hotel on Perimeter Road; and the TownePlace Suites extended-stay hotel, which is located close to the Courtyard on Huse Road. All three are in the Manchester Airport vicinity.

According to Roedel, the supply-and-demand picture for rooms in his immediate market — which includes his competition downtown and around Manchester Airport — has turned around. For the first time in years, he said, demand now outstrips supply, something which happened late last year.

"We try to position ourselves as a unique offering," said Roedel of his hotel, which is slated to open in early April. "We're very confident in the location. We're very confident in the marketplace."

At the Radisson Hotel on Manchester's Elm Street, management is expecting a 9 percent in group business this year compared to 2005, said Maurine Bowman, the hotel's director of sales.

Roedel also has been talking with entrepreneur Dean Kamen, whose company owns the long-vacant Pandora building in the Millyard, about a proposed renovation of Pandora for a luxury hotel with penthouse condominiums.

Colwen Management Inc., a hotel management firm, will manage the properties that Jiten is selling, a Colwen official said. When the deal is complete, Colwen will manage a total of ten hotels. Four of those hotels are in New Hampshire.

Jiten officials were traveling last week and were unavailable for comment for this article. With about 300 rooms, the hotels being sold represent a good portion of the Manchester market, and over the past few years, more rooms have become available around the airport.

Jiten continues to run the Quality Inn and Wayfarer Conference Center in Bedford, among other area properties, and recently pumped $4 million into the Wayfarer in an extensive renovation project.

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