Billings lodging options expand with opening of La Quinta Inn

2014-08-24T00:00:00Z 2014-10-28T14:57:04Z Billings lodging options expand with opening of La Quinta InnBy ERIK OLSON eolson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The hotel boom in Billings continued last week with the opening of La Quinta Inn and Suites on the West End, and lodging experts say the boom should continue through the rest of the year.

This explosion in the number of rooms may be good news for visitors, who will likely see a leveling off of rising room rates because of the increased competition. For hoteliers, however, the increasing capacity means a greater struggle to fill rooms and find workers to keep them clean.

“It will be a little more of a buyers’ market,” said Steve Wahrlich, a downtown Billings hotel owner and president of the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District.

About 11 million people visit Montana annually, and the number has been rising in recent years, according to the state. In Billings, hotel demand is heavily driven by trips to Yellowstone Park and other outdoor recreation and events at MetraPark, such as high-school sporting events.

In January, Billings had 4,147 hotel and motel rooms, little changed from the beginning of 2013, according to the survey conducted by STR.

By the end of this year, the number of rooms will likely be more than 5,000 — a 20 percent jump for 2014. Much of the expansion has taken place in the past few months.

La Quinta is the third hotel to open in Billings since March, adding a total of 229 new rooms for lodging in the city. It’s at 5720 S. Frontage Road, next to the Cracker Barrel. Hotel Ledgestone opened in March on East King Avenue near the South Billings Boulevard intersection. My Place Hotel opened less than a block away in July.

According to the Yellowstone County Lodging Association, an additional five hotels are planned or under construction with as many as 478 new rooms. Another three to six hotels are rumored to be coming, possibly generating another 200 to 400 new rooms by next May, according to the association and local experts.

In response to the added capacity, the tourism district is ratcheting up marketing to attract more visitors to the area, particularly during off months in the spring and fall, Wahrlich said. The city assesses a $2 fee per rented room for marketing to the tourism district.

Meanwhile, new hotels are marketing their amenities to attract visitors.

The $7.3 million, four-story La Quinta Inn has a meeting space for up to 50, a fitness center and business work space. The pool is geared for families with a large slide and smaller slide shaped like a frog’s mouth.

“Our new hotel offers an upscale environment at an affordable price,” general manager Gail Linnell said in a written statement.

A room with two beds costs $159 a night, while a one-bedroom suite is $179. Hotels typically charge their highest rates during the summer months.

Since 2011, average room rates citywide have risen 20 percent to $91 in the January to July period, according to a survey commissioned by Visit Billings.

The July average rate was $101.36, among the highest in recent years, but Wahrlich, who owns the Best Western Clock Tower Inn, said he expects those prices will stabilize as more hotels open.

“My guts tell me the rates won’t go up,” he said.

The pressure to find good workers will, however. Yellowstone County’s unemployment rate is between 4 and 5 percent, and businesses in the service sector — including restaurants and hotels — are competing for quality workers.

“Personnel needs will become huge,” Wahrlich said.

Officials at La Quinta said they’ve operated in Billings for nearly three decades, and they see the need for another hotel in the growing city. The new hotel is owned by Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Kelly Inns, which owns two other hotels in the Billings area.

“We continue to invest in this vibrant business environment. Billings is a leading city in Montana and in the Rocky Mountain region,” Kelly CEO Brenda Schmidt said in a written statement.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Absarokee-based bank appoints new president

Absarokee-based bank appoints new president

January 27, 2015 7:30 pm Related Loading…
Highlands mine could mean primary, secondary jobs for Butte

Highlands mine could mean primary, secondary jobs for Butte

January 25, 2015 12:00 pm Photos

Photos

Loading…
Bakken wives worry over job losses

Bakken wives worry over job losses

January 25, 2015 10:58 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Dickinson refinery costing more than expected due to delays

Dickinson refinery costing more than expected due to delays

January 20, 2015 11:00 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Freight booming at Billings airport

Freight booming at Billings airport

January 16, 2015 4:42 pmLoading…

Williston to shut down man camps for new fire sprinkler systems

January 15, 2015 9:40 amLoading…

Company owner dies at Bakken oil well site

January 15, 2015 9:26 amLoading…
1 dead, 1 injured in Bakken oilfield accident

1 dead, 1 injured in Bakken oilfield accident

January 14, 2015 4:58 pmLoading…
Noodles & Company opening in Bozeman, Missoula

Noodles & Company opening in Bozeman, Missoula

January 11, 2015 3:30 pmLoading…
Senate panel approves Keystone bill despite veto threat

Senate panel approves Keystone bill despite veto threat

January 08, 2015 11:17 amLoading…
‘Do not rent’: Bakken hotels try to curb human trafficking

‘Do not rent’: Bakken hotels try to curb human trafficking

January 04, 2015 2:19 pm Photos

Photos

Loading…
Business, labor groups preparing for legislative session

Business, labor groups preparing for legislative session

January 04, 2015 6:00 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Car wash eying MetraPark-area expansion

Car wash eying MetraPark-area expansion

December 29, 2014 6:40 pmLoading…
Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses