Over the course of the next two years, Worcester will see the opening of at least three new hotels, bringing an estimated 360 new rooms to the city. The expansion of hotel space is vital if the city hopes to draw and retain tourist and convention revenues.
XSS Hotels, a hotel development and management company, plans to open a 100-room Hampton Inn in early 2016. The company is also looking to build a 150-room Renaissance Hotel downtown to compliment the new CitySquare project. Homewood Suites will be breaking ground on a 110-room hotel located in close proximity to Union Station by the end of this year.
While the new rooms are a good step forward, they are making up for lost ground. In 2010 the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lincoln Square closed when the owners defaulted on a mortgage. Those 243 rooms were converted into dorms and classroom space by MCPHS University. Fortunately, the Crowne Plaza’s closing wasn’t due to a lack of customers. Today, seven hotels in Worcester provide 745 rooms. The need for additional lodging is displayed in the occupancy rates with 75% of beds full throughout the year, which is significantly higher than the 65% national average. This means that the 360 new rooms will help stabilize the market and keep any one establishment from being overburdened.
Extra rooms also help increase the town’s capacity for hosting large events, creating a symbiotic relationship with Worcester’s growing number of conventions and tournaments. The DCU center boasts over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space for trade shows, conventions, entertainment, and private functions. The adjoining arena has the capacity to accommodate anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 attendees for concerts and sporting events, each one a potential customer of gas, food, souvenirs, and, of course, lodging. Developing more hotels in the area will help Worcester be a better host to these large events, and help business and the city itself earn more.
Worcester could also hope to bring NCAA regional tournaments as part of the March Madness events, or other competitions. Unfortunately, the NCAA hasn’t been to Worcester since 2005, in part due to the lack of accommodations for guests. Recently, the Massive Comic Con was held at the DCU Center and welcomed 5000 attendees, most of whom were visiting from out of town and quickly filled the city’s current hotel offerings.
Of course, new hotels are only part of the solution. Worcester city government needs to offer a streamlined approval service for new construction applications and business licenses. Tax schedules, while needing to be favorable to the city, must also be competitive and attractive for potential developers. The coming rooms are a good sign of growth, but also a reminder that there is always room to improve.