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Too many hotels? Building for lodging continues in Harlingen

October 1, 2018

HARLINGEN — Soon, 333 hotel rooms are opening here.

Three hotels are being built in a market where lodging has remained stagnant for about five years.

However, city officials believe the $16.7 million convention center will help draw more visitors when it opens early next year.

“ We think there’s plenty of business for the hotels when the new ones come online,” Assistant City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said Friday.

Across town, many hotels count on area businesses and events such as the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival to draw visitors.

While hotels such as Hampton Inn & Suites and Residence Inn by Marriott report strong bookings, the city’s hotel occupancy tax revenues have remained static since about 2014.

In the past five years, revenues have ranged from $942,765 in 2014 to $1 million in 2015.

At City Hall, officials are counting on the new hotels to boost revenues.

The hotels

At Sesame Drive and Ed Carey Drive, developers are building an 89-room Homewood Suites by Hilton.

The $4 million hotel will cater to customers planning extended stays, much like the nearby, 71-room Candlewood Suites, which opened about three years ago off Expressway 83.

Nearby, between Ed Carey and New Hampshire Street, developers are platting a 94-room Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott.

After completing the subdivision plat, the contractor is expected to apply for a permit to build the $8.5 million hotel.

There are no completion dates for those two projects.

Meanwhile, a 150-room Hilton Garden Inn is planned to be attached to the convention center on an eight-acre site at Harlingen Heights.

However, the project being launched by BC Lynd Hospitality, the company that will operate the convention center, is several months behind.

Earlier this month, City Manager Dan Serna said construction was expected to begin “in the next few weeks.”

Together, the three hotels will add 333 rooms to the local market.

Booked up

At Hampton Inn, General Manager Eddie Aguilar said he “welcomes” the new hotels.

“ There’s going to be a little bit for everybody,” Aguilar said. “The more competition, the more rooms.”

During the last year, the Hampton Inn has boosted business by about 10 percent.

“ The last three years there’s been more need,” Aguilar said.

Now, Southwest Airlines brings many business travelers to the city’s hotels.

“ We usually sell out all week,” Aguilar said. “We have a lot of business people coming to the area Monday through Thursday.”

At Residence Inn, summertime business is hot while events such as the annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, which opens in early November, help draw visitors during the off-season.

“ We’ve been doing well,” director of sales Moses Serrato said. “Summertime is usually high-volume. You’d be surprised when high-volume season comes around. There’s plenty of business. Then we prepare for winter, when it typically slows down. The birding festival has a lot of overflow.”

Serrato believes the local market can support more hotels.

“ My guess is there will be plenty of business to go around for everybody,” he said.

Convention center draw

At City Hall, officials believe the convention center will be a draw.

“ We hope the convention center generates business to bring additional people to town,” Gonzalez said.

BC Lynd is working on booking conventions and other events.

“ We are getting inquiries,” Gonzalez said. “It varies from weddings to conventions.”

However, the city has not released detailed information regarding BC Lynd’s work at booking the convention center.

At BC Lynd’s San Antonio offices, officials have not responded to telephone requests for information on the company’s work to book the convention center.

In the industry, conventions are typically booked a year or more in advance.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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