CVB begins study of downtown hotel possibilities

Published 12:02 pm Friday, October 6, 2017

Leaders are optimistic that a downtown hotel feasibility study for Danville can provide useful information, whether or not it finds that a downtown hotel would be a good idea.

Kyle Talente with RKG Associates returned to Danville Thursday for the first of three meetings with the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau to be held as part of the $15,000 study. Talente previously worked for the local Economic Development Partnership, which paid his company close to $84,000 to complete a strategic economic development plan. Among that plan’s many recommendations was to conduct a downtown hotel feasibility study, which is what the CVB has now undertaken.

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The study will produce a “three-prong analysis” of the Danville-Boyle County market, Talente said:

• It will determine if there’s enough demand in the local market for rentable rooms and where the demand is coming from;

• It will assess whether a hotel could charge enough for the rooms it would rent to be financially viable; and

• It will produce a “site analysis” identifying possible locations that would make sense for a hotel.

“Even if we say there’s a lot of unmet demand out there, that doesn’t mean that a business potentially could make money,” Talente said. “… One of the underlying analyses that’s coming out of this study is not ‘this is going to happen, let’s figure out how to make it happen.’ The analysis is to determine whether or not this is a good idea to take to market, or whether or not we need to sit on this for a while and wait for the market to strengthen or raise the chances so that it does become a good idea.”

Talente said he does think Danville-Boyle County is missing a place to stay that has a “boutique-y style” to it.

Jennifer Kirchner, CVB executive director, said a popular product these days is a “tour package,” where people can purchase an all-inclusive trip that gives them multiple attractions to attend and things to do across more than one day along with a room to stay in at night.

As an example, she said Danville is situated in the middle of the Bourbon Trail and could attempt to market a package where tourists travel half the Bourbon Trail, stay overnight in Danville, then travel the second half the next day. But without a boutique hotel option, such a package won’t work yet.

CVB Chair Brittney Adams runs a wedding venue business and said many of her customers often wind up staying in boutique rooms in Stanford, at Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg or at Shakertown in north Mercer County.

“A majority of my business does come from out-of-town, out-of-state, and they are looking for your quintessential Kentucky experience,” Adams said. “They want to stay in an AirBNB, they want to stay in a boutique hotel.”

Adams said if Danville had a downtown hotel, “it would add to what I could offer … it’s something to draw them here.”

CVB member Jerry Houck said there are three big “barn-like” wedding venues in Boyle County that are essentially “booked all the time” and he believes all of them run into the same issue.

CVB members and attendees also identified family reunions and other family-related events as occassions that attract people to Danville-Boyle County who would likely prefer a boutique hotel experience.

“I think family reunions are big,” she said. “A lot of visitors come here for some sort of familial (reason).”

Kirchner has said previously that the plan for the study has raised the eyebrows of hotel owners on the city’s bypass, but the intention is to determine if a downtown hotel could be added without hurting existing businesses. A similar thought process on AirBNBs — private rooms or homes rented out through the internet — played out at Thursday’s meeting.

Steve Bottas, a member of the public who attended Thursday’s kickoff meeting, was one of several who brought up questions concerning AirBNB locations.

Talente said “if the analysis shows that adding a new downtown hotel is going to adversely affect this marketplace to the point where you’re going to start shutting down existing businesses, that’s something that we would strongly advise the CVB to take into consideration before moving forward.”

Talente said he thinks a downtown hotel would be “more going after the AirBNB business than the bypass business.”

“I think it’s going to be a different animal and it’s probably going to be closer in relation to the personal traveler — the family coming to visit their kid at Centre (College) or (someone visiting a patient in the hospital),” Talente said.

However, he noted later in the meeting, a hotel wouldn’t provide exactly what AirBNBs do — many AirBNBs offer much larger spaces and a “home away from home” experience, which a hotel would not.

“That’s why I think the market works is because we’re not trying to continue to pump in the same product,” he said. “You don’t have the diversity I think you could support here, given the college, given the hospital, given your business travel, given a lot of these social meets.”

Also discussed at the meeting:

• parking could be a major obstacle, as space is already tight in downtown Danville;

• Centre College parents could be a major driver in what locations would be viable because they would be likely to want a boutique experience and the ability to walk to campus;

• the study could reveal how much potential there would be for adding rooms in the Perryville area for people visiting Perryville Battlefield.

“I’m very optimistic about this,” Kirchner said. “Whatever the outcome, it’s a really excellent time for tourism in Boyle County and we’re seeing a lot of growth in a variety of ways. Figuring out how we can best capture that is what we’re trying to do.”

The next meeting with Talente, expected to occur within two to four weeks, will focus on the data collected for the first step — the market analysis. The economic feasibility and site analysis are planned to be addressed in the third and final meeting.