New hotels planned for Statesville, N.C.

Aug. 30--Even though the economy is slowing some travelers down, the hospitality industry is proceeding with plans to build upscale hotels in the Statesville area to meet tourists' heightened standards.

These new hotels feature 24-hour coffee bars, business centers, larger rooms and exercise facilities.

"Corporate clientele's expectations have increased," said Andy Briggs, general manager/partner for Gateway Hospitality, which owns the Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Inn off Cinema Drive.

"They are looking for that upscale hotel experience. They are expecting the amenities that these hotel brands are putting out there."

The 94-room Courtyard, an 80-room Comfort Suites on Salisbury Highway and a 78-room Holiday Inn Express on Sullivan Road are currently in various stages of construction.

"The entire industry was moving that way," said Jay Patel, managing member of Gayatrimaa Hospitality LLC, which is developing the Holiday Inn. "You are not going to see someone build a budget or economy" hotel.

Statesville is traditionally a stop-over point for tourists on their way to Florida or Canada, said Libba Barrineau, executive director of Statesville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The city sees some convention business, like the North Carolina Jaycees coming to town, or large church groups.

"As the growth from the Charlotte area goes north, there is more demand for products," Barrineau said.

ABC Investments President and Comfort Suites developer Von Patel said 2008 hasn't been a great year because of the gas prices.

But the industry still sees opportunity for growth in the Statesville area.

The Comfort Suites will be a part of a six-acre development, which will also include a shopping center, a restaurant and a gas station, Von Patel said.

Like residential housing development, hospitality firms are dealing with rising construction costs.

The cost of land, steel, concrete and wood has doubled since ABC Investments started planning the new hotel, Von Patel said.

The demand for hotels has gone down since Gayatrimaa Hospitality started planning the Holiday Inn Express two years ago.

"This year they are forecasting a decline, next year they are forecasting a decline," Jay Patel said. "If I had to decide today, I probably wouldn't have started the construction yet."

Briggs said Gateway hasn't experienced a lot of construction cost problems since it started building.

It had to change some of the amenities it wanted because the hotel is Courtyard's latest prototype and it kept making last-minute changes.

Overall, the changes haven't affected the hotel's present timeline. Briggs said the hotel is expected to open in early 2009.

Copyright (c) 2008, Statesville Record & Landmark, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.