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Despite room boom, occupancy & rate in Downtown Boise hotels still strong

We called it the Room Boom – a flurry of projects bringing about 575 new hotel rooms to the Downtown Boise area since 2017.

Now, with another hotel project in progress, is there really a demand for all these rooms?

Yes, according to Pat Rice, Executive Director of the Greater Boise Auditorium District.

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“People couldn’t find rooms in the downtown core – and all of a sudden rooms opened up and the occupancy rate stayed about the same,” Rice said.

GBAD operates the Boise Centre convention facility in Downtown, and funds part of its operations through a tax on room nights in the city.

New report on hotel occupancy

He cited a brand new report from Smith Travel, which shows the greater Downtown Boise area properties had about the same percentage of empty rooms from 2017 to 2018. That’s despite all the extra capacity.

“We were neck and neck year on year on occupancy, which means all the new rooms were absorbed,” Rice said.

He said the report also showed the average room rate actually went up slightly, another indicator of pent up demand.

“Normally, someone new will come in rates will go down. They will start with an introductory rate, which can pull down the rate everywhere.

But in Boise, that didn’t happen. The average rate for a night stay in the Boise market was $106.50 in 2017 – but it went up just about three bucks in 2018 to $109.47, according to data provided by Rice.

Inn at 500 CapitolCapitol & Myrtle1047Boutique
Residence Inn by MarriottCapitol & Myrtle18610Extended stay
Hyatt Place10th & Bannock1525Business
Hilton Garden Inn13th & Front1325Business
Home2 Suites by Hilton (under construction)5th & Front1407Extended stay

“Before 2017, the average rate hadn’t ever hit $100 annually. It went up six bucks, and then another three.”

He said all the extra hotel rooms were needed, and noted a 2015 study was right on the nose. That report said the Downtown Boise core needed another 580 rooms in the six years from 2015-2021. That’s almost exactly the number built.

He said people hoping to stay in Downtown Boise for business, conventions or proximity to events and attractions instead had to look elsewhere. That might have been hotels at the Boise Spectrum or in Meridian – or even as far away as Canyon County.

Combined with the 2016 expansion of the Boise Centre, the area can now attract more and larger conventions. He said they will host more than 70 out-of-state conventions this year.

“I think we are helping (room occupancy) for sure, just by the sheer number of conventions.”

They are starting to see more events book up with more than 1,000 attendees.

A large convention-style hotel?

The 2015 report said Boise needs one thing it still doesn’t have: a large convention-style hotel.

“We recommend at least one, full-service, branded hotel be developed that contains between 350 and 450 hotel rooms,” PKF Consulting wrote. The report said the then-proposed, now-built hotels “do not satisfy the need for one large hotel to accommodate convention group demand.”

Rice said his staff has been working to get around that limitation.

“We are proving we can get the bigger conventions by selling them the hotels we have,” he said. “There are some groups that won’t ever come to Boise if there aren’t one or two hotels.”

But by providing transportation, talking up the Downtown Boise core’s walkability, and touting the proximity of hotels, they can still bring in significant out-of-state business.

“We have to use the tools that we have got: a couple thousand rooms within easy walking distance, and within 5 minutes on a bus from any of those hotels that are just outside the core,” he said.

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