Montgomery, Frederick see job gains in hotel industry -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery and Frederick counties’ hotel and restaurant sector saw the largest percentage job gain among industries in the past year with a 6 percent boost, outperforming typically strong fields like health care and information technology.

Some of that 2,400-job gain between January 2012 and last January was because of the addition of a new hotel in Frederick last fall, the 120-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott. And the sector will see continued boosts, as more hotels are planned to open in Montgomery and Frederick, including a 120-room Hampton Inn & Suites in Gaithersburg in August and a 140-room Cambria Suites in downtown Rockville by 2015. Planners also are reviewing a potential 222-room Westin hotel in Bethesda.

Both residents and visitors have been spending more lately in the hotel and restaurant sector now that the economy is doing better, said Kelly Groff, executive director of the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County. Area hotels traditionally see a good boost in the spring and summer with more visitors to nearby Washington, D.C., and larger events like the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda in late June.

Tourism officials are making a strong push to lure weekend leisure travelers with a campaign theme of “Spring It On,” Groff said.

“Our proximity to D.C. is a real win for our hotel community,” she said.

Tiger Woods played in last year’s AT&T National, which helped boost hotel bookings. The AT&T National, which started in 2007 in Bethesda, moved to Newtown Square, Pa., in 2010 and 2011 to allow Congressional Country Club to prepare for the U.S. Open.

Other events that should provide a good boost to local hotels, restaurants and retailers include the Tour Mid-Atlantic Championship, a professional golf tournament slated for May 27 through June 2 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Potomac, and Heritage Days in late June.

Choice Hotels International moving into its new headquarters in downtown Rockville by next week should bring more business in the form of conventions and meetings to that area, which is close to a Metro station, Groff said. Besides the more than 400 employees at headquarters, Choice Hotels franchises six hotels in the county that employ about 150 total, said Sarah Lee, a company spokeswoman.

Slight occupancy decline

Hotel occupancy in Montgomery County last year actually declined slightly to 64.4 percent from 65.1 percent in 2011, according to figures from market research firm Smith Travel Research. Revenue per available room dropped about $1 to $79 in 2012.

In the first two months this year, both occupancy rates and revenue rose by 5 percent from the same months in 2012.

“We are hoping for a gradual increase in 2013, although the government sequestration may impact our group market,” Groff said.

Frederick County saw a slight decline in hotel occupancy last year, from 66.6 percent in 2011 to 66.2 percent in 2012. But revenue per room rose to $58.23 last year from $54.91 in 2011. Occupancy and revenue were down slightly in the first two months.

The Frederick County Bell & History Day on Saturday marks the opening of the county’s museum season. Several museums and historic sites will be free Saturday.

The Frederick Keys minor league baseball team also opens its season Friday night.