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More pricey hotels just what Vail needs

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
A study by a group that wants to build two luxury hotels on the Lionshead parking structure says 21,100 room nights go unaccommodated each year in the Vail market. (Dominique Taylor/Daily file)
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VAIL ” Ralf Garrison calls hotel rooms “little, baby oil wells.”

“Every hot bed is a place for a guest to come and stay overnight,” said Garrison, a resort analyst at the Denver-based Advisory Group. “When they do, they spend money, and that money fuels the whole economy.”

And a five-star St. Regis Hotel that charges $432 a night? That’s a slightly larger-than-average oil well, Garrison said.

A Texas developer wants to bring 120 five-star St. Regis Hotel rooms and 120 four-star W Hotel rooms to Vail as part of his plan to renovate the Lionshead parking garage.

The town is supposed to decide next month whether to redevelop its parking garage into hotels, condos, timeshares, a convention center, stores and more public parking.

But does Vail need all of those new hotel rooms? Some say Vail can always use more hotels rooms.

“I think ‘hot beds’ are probably one of the higher priorities the town should have,” said Vail Mayor Rod Slifer.

Hotels stay filled with people, whereas expensive condos often stay empty, Slifer said. He called the prospect of 240 more hotel rooms “terrific.”

“We are, in my mind, dramatically short of pure hotel rooms when you compare us to other resorts,” Slifer said.

Slifer said Vail needs all types of hotel rooms, from the relatively inexpensive rooms at the proposed Marriott Residence Inn to be built on the site of the Roost Lodge in West Vail to the five-star St. Regis.

The W and St. Regis hotels would compete with high-end hotels like the Sonnenalp, the Lodge at Vail, the Vail Cascade, the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch and the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

There are already 1,108 similar types of hotel rooms across the valley, according to a study commissioned by the Texas development group.

There are also lots of other expensive hotel rooms opening up, including the new 100-room Vail Plaza Hotel, the 120-room Four Seasons and the 205-key Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa at the base of Beaver Creek in Avon.

Those hotels are filling up about 60 percent of the time throughout the year, according to the study. But demand is so high during the winter, people get turned away. According to the study, 21,100 rooms nights a year go unsatisfied because there’s not enough supply.

Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, said there’s a need for expensive hotel rooms.

“We are really at a loss for high-end hotel rooms,” Ferry said.

A study commissioned by the Texas group says the hotels will be profitable, pulling in $32 million in revenue and $8 million in profit a year by 2013.

Other hotels won’t suffer because of the new hotels, said Mark Masinter, part of the Texas development team, called Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital.

“This is not going to hurt other hotels,” Masinter said.

Rob LeVine, general manager of the Antlers at Vail, said he perhaps would not be excited about 240 hotel rooms if there was nothing else coming along with them. But proposal includes Vail’s largest conference center.

The conference center would add demand for 57,600 hotel stays a year in Vail by 2013, according to the developer’s study.

Conference attendees couldn’t be accommodated at the W and St. Regis hotels alone. Conventioneers would be expected to stay at hotels around Vail.

“I’m committed and resolved as ever that (a conference center is) a good thing for Vail,” LeVine said.

LeVine was a supporter of a publicly funded conference center that was rejected by voters in 2005.

Plus, the project would bring more stores to Vail – an expected 45 percent increase in square footage in the Lionshead area. That’s another good thing for the Antlers, LeVine said.

“Additional retail is very attractive to me,” he said.

The study predicts the hotel will charge an average of $432 a night by the time it “stabilizes” in 2013.


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