New Hotels Splitting Up The Business Pie In Airport West
By Catherine Lackner
Industry changes and new hotels in the Airport West area have softened the business traveler market, but hoteliers don’t expect the doldrums to linger.
"It’s been slow this summer, but Miami is always slow in the summer," said Marilyne Bouteiller, revenue manager at the Hotel Sofitel at 5800 Blue Lagoon Drive. "With the addition of all the new hotels, we are just splitting the business. There are more facilities but the demand has remained about the same."
Ms. Bouteiller, who would not give occupancy figures, said a slowdown of hotel construction "would be a good idea. We are all in the same boat, after all.
"Or, the city could try to bring more convention business into town in the summer to bring the concentration of business that we see in the winter months, she said."
"Right now it’s been busy but our business is off a little," said Vicky Trejos, operating manager at the Comfort Inn at 5125 NW 36th St. "We’ve just done a major renovation to become a Holiday Inn Express. In fact, we’re having our inspection today," she said Tuesday.
During the five-month renovation, occupancy was off because more than half the rooms were unavailable. "Other than that, the city has been busy," Ms. Trejos said. "They come in and ask for rooms, even when we don’t have them vacant."
The 6-month-old Hotel Inter-Continental Miami Airport West at 2505 NW 87th Ave. has found its niche with the business traveler, said Grethel Barquero, human resources manager.
"We’re in the 90%-100% occupancy range during the week but we have very average weekends," she said. Nearly all weekday guests are corporate travelers, she said.
The area’s largest hotel at 150 rooms, the Inter-Continental markets itself to the international traveler with a fully bilingual staff, The Armalarry Grill continental restaurant and full business services, she said.
The hotel hopes to beef up its weekend traffic but "we’ve only been open six months and it takes time to catch up," Ms. Barquero said.
"The weekend demand is down because of the new inventory," said Joe Brown, city director of marketing for Marriott Lodging. "That customer who is spending their own dollar has a lot of choice."
Western Miami is served at the Courtyard by Marriott at 3929 NW 79th Ave. as well as other hotels in the Marriott chain.
Many new hotels are in the mid-price range and "at that tier, there’s a whole glut and the customer is looking for value, so we’re seeing some weekend softening," Mr. Brown said.
Marriott counters the new competition by cross-selling its products through an 800 number.
"If we find a customer looking for lower price we can direct him to a Fairfield Hotel. If we can’t capture a customer because of limited availability in one hotel, we can cross-sell him to another Marriott. Our biggest push is to make sure those 800 agents and local reservation agents have the best training."
Though the market has grown more competitive, "no one is panicking out there," Mr. Brown said. "It’s not a bad market. There’s good demand mid-week."
Business is expected throughout the week when the Dolphin Mall opens at State Road 836 and the Florida Turnpike.
"Everyone is excited about that mall," Mr. Brown said. "It’s going to be a huge demand generator. A lot of Latins driving to Sawgrass Mills are going to be coming to this mall instead, and these are travelers who come from Latin America and the Caribbean for the weekend."
Overall, "there’s lots of demand in Airport West from the new office buildings, and mid-tier hotels are going to benefit," Mr. Brown said. "They’re easy to open and it doesn’t take long before they really take off." Details: Ms. Bouteiller, (305) 264-4888; Ms. Trejos, (305) 887-2153; Ms. Barquero, (305)468-1400; Mr. Brown, (305) 374-3900.