WTOC Investigates: The hotel construction boom

WTOC Investigates: Hotel boom in the Hostess City

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It seems like everywhere you look in Savannah, another new hotel is under construction. In a WTOC investigation, Romney Smith looked into the numbers to see if we’re actually filling the hotels or building them too fast.

The surge of hotel construction is all over Chatham County, including the Historic District. Downtown Savannah is a popular location for visitors, and attracts people from all over who also notice the hotel construction boom. WTOC ran into Julie Butterfield in downtown Savannah during her visit from New Hampshire.

“We went with the Alida Hotel down by the water, so its very beautiful, and we noticed they’re building another Marriott right below that, right on the water," Butterfield said.

The travel research firm, STR, says in 2018, the Savannah area maintained an occupancy rate of 70.4 percent, while the historic area’s occupancy averaged 77.9 percent, despite hundreds of hotel rooms opening. According to Visit Savannah, in 2019, there are four hotels in the Historic District under construction that will add a total of 715 new rooms by the end of 2019.

  • Drayton Hotel = 50 rooms
  • Cambria Hotel = 120 rooms
  • Aloft Hotel = 125 rooms
  • JW Marriott @ Plant Riverside = 420 rooms

Joseph Marinelli, President of Visit Savannah, says all the hotel construction makes sense.

“We’re attracting a visitor who tends to spend more, stay a little bit longer, and come back again,” Marinelli said.

Some locals WTOC spoke with, like Roger Hill, are concerned that the new luxury hotels cost too much for their visiting friends and family.

“It’s too expensive. I’d rather them choose the $100 room because it would be more nights they could stay in Savannah,” Hill said.

Although all of the new hotels being built are considered luxury, Visit Savannah says its still a win-win for locals and visitors.

“Whether it’s a small select service type hotel or a luxury hotel, you’re putting people to work, and that’s why I think locals should care about this,” Marinelli said.

New hotels mean more jobs for locals, and collecting more money for hotel motel tax and sales tax. If you’re still concerned about expensive boutique hotels, Marinelli says, don’t be.

“There’s really tons of affordable hotels. If you visit Savannah on Sunday Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you’re probably going to get a more affordable hotel rate than you will on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Marinelli said.

Visitors we spoke with say the hotel boom is ultimately a good thing.

“I thought, ‘well good for Savannah, it must be good for business down here and tourism.’ Seems like a good place to visit,” Butterfield said.

While more and more people visit Savannah every year supporting this growth in hotels, Marinelli says the hotels coming to historic Savannah are not knocking down historic buildings to make way for new construction. Companies and contractors are either remodeling existing buildings or building new additions on empty land.

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