KHOU fantasizes: If only Houston had more downtown hotels….

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Last week, KHOU-11’s Lee McGuire ran this bit of (erroneous) editorializing posing as a news story:

One of the most commonly-heard complaints about the City of Houston is that there are not enough quality hotels downtown.

It’s one of the main reasons the city has not landed many major conventions at the sprawling George R. Brown Convention Center. The only hotel directly adjacent to the GRB is the Hilton Americas, which is routinely sold out during large conventions.

To help solve the problem, the Houston City Council has passed a plan that would offer tax incentives to developers that plan to build three-star-or-higher hotels within walking distance of the GRB. Under the deal, the City would effectively advance the developers part of the hotel/motel tax collections that the hotel would be expected to eventually bring in.

Point 1: Had McGuire added, “one of the most commonly-heard complaints from people who hope to benefit from hotel expansion downtown” the statement would have been much more accurate. Seriously, when is the last time any visitor to Houston complained that there weren’t enough quality hotels downtown?

Point 2: Houston has excellent facilities. The reason Houston does not land as many major conventions as some delusional Houtopians would prefer is that Houston is not and will probably never be a top-tier travel destination of the sort that DOES lure major conventions. We can do okay as a second-tier convention city with top-notch facilities, but the really top-notch convention cities have us beaten in some ways that we can’t address easily (certainly not by enriching consultants and developers with an interest in building more hotels).

And finally, for some interesting facts (and less editorializing), we turn to the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff:

Demand for hotel rooms nationwide is expected to fall for the next two years, according to a report from PKF Consulting.

With the slowdown in the national economy, combined with negative effects from airline capacity cutbacks, the firm is forecasting a 0.2 percent decline in lodging demand this year, followed by a loss of 1.1 percent in 2009.

It would be the first time since 1988 that the U.S. lodging industry would experience two consecutive years of decline in demand, the report said, citing Smith Travel Research.

This comes at a time when some developers are unable to get financing for new projects — a problem expected to linger into 2009.

Houston hotel occupancy has been flat this year, at 68 percent through August.

But Hurricane Ike should give September and October a boost.

Those displaced by the storm and recovery workers have filled area hotels. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently said it will continue to pay for rooms for qualified Hurricane Ike victims until Nov. 1.

Still, the industry won’t start to turn around until 2010, when PKF predicts a 2.2 percent increase in demand, followed by another 3.1 percent gain in 2011.

No quotes from John Keeling glossing over it all? That’s unusual for local media.


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