Vancouver’s hotel market experiencing a boom

From the Waterfront to Hazel Dell, from west-side to east-side, new hotels are springing up

Holiday Inn Express
Courtesy of Kirkland Development

Vancouver is currently home to 31 hotels, with 2,738 rooms. That number is about to skyrocket.

Eight new hotels representing 1,004 total rooms are proposed in Vancouver. Some of these may still be a ways out, while others may come online as soon as next fall. (Still others are in the works in Washougal and Battle Ground.)

“This represents a huge increase in hotel inventory,” stated Jacob Schmidt, director of marketing and communications for Visit Vancouver USA. The nonprofit agency is the official destination marketing group for Vancouver and the surrounding area.

Schmidt said the statewide 2015 tourism impact study revealed that last year tourism in Clark County generated $504.8 million in direct visitor spending. Of that, hotels accounted for 35 percent ($178 million). Schmidt explained that having plentiful hotels in the region is crucial to driving up tourism dollars.

“If you drive up room nights, you drive up dining and shopping as well,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt stated that Clark County’s hotel occupancy rate is 74.2 percent, slightly higher than the statewide rate of 70.8 percent, and second only to King County’s rate. Clark County’s average daily rate (ADR) has increased 6.9 percent to $110.82, and Schmidt expects the ADR to climb higher as more mid- to high-rate hotels are built here. Portland’s ADR is $135.06.

Here’s a look at what the future holds.

The next two years …

“The hotel market is doing very well – Vancouver continues to attract employers and travelers, and our sports programs at the schools contribute as well. We’re proud to be part of it – it’s our home town,” said Dean Kirkland, chairman of Kirkland Development.

Kirkland’s firm opened Candlewood Suites early this year. The facility features 83 extended-stay suites, and is part of Kirkland Development’s 18-block master plan on 192nd Avenue. In September of 2017, the firm plans to open a Holiday Inn Express across the street from Candlewood. The Holiday Inn Express will have 82 rooms, a pool and will provide a light breakfast.

“We think there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two hotels,” said Kirkland. “They will balance out the master plan, which we’ve been working on for eight years.”

Kirkland said the 192nd corridor has a great impact in Clark County, with high traffic patterns and plenty of new and established employers such as PeaceHealth, WaferTech and the Banfield Animal Hospital.

“I’m a long-term resident of Clark County and I’ve watched the growth – and it all went east,” Kirkland stated.

But now the Vancouver waterfront is giving the 192nd corridor a run for its money, and Kirkland is a major player in that area as well, planning to open the boutique Hotel Indigo late in 2018.

“There’s nothing like the waterfront – now is the time,” said Kirkland. “We and the other developers such as Gramor (Development) have a chance to do something that will have a huge impact on Vancouver and shape the waterfront and skyline.”

Kirkland said that his $60 million dollar waterfront project, which includes the 10-story Kirkland Tower (condos) and the six-story hotel, will change the long-term opinion of Vancouver and be a “smashing success.” The hotel and tower will face the water and share services (such as room service and parking). They will feature blue mirrored glass with silver metal paneling.

“It will be the nicest looking hotel Vancouver has ever seen – an absolutely stunning landmark,” said Kirkland. “As the city gets the pier done, people and businesses will flock to the waterfront. Vancouver will become a place people gravitate to.”

And beyond …

Other hotels on the docket include a 150-room AC Marriot at the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal One property and the hotel at the Ilani Resort and Casino in La Center/Ridgefield, as well as several other properties ranging from Mill Plain Blvd. to the east side to Hazel Dell.

Inspired by European modernism, the Marriott AC brand touts a “new kind of stay for a new kind of traveler – a creative, entrepreneurial and modern global traveler – who prefers to have fewer things, but expect them to be better than good.”

Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager for the Ilani Resort and Casino, said that the first phase of the complex will open in spring 2017. This phase will include 380,000 square feet of gaming space as well as 15 restaurants, bars and retail shops and an entertainment venue that can accommodate 350 people. In the fall of 2017 the convention center will be added to the mix.

“For the near term,” said Fox-LaRose, “we are looking to partner with regional hotels as we begin to build our business. We are working on a program to create a seamless process to book offsite rooms.”

The Ilani hotel will come later – construction is expected to start about two years from the opening Phase 1.

It’s too early to say how many rooms the hotel will offer, but Fox-LaRose said they “plan to build a hotel that will support the resort and casino, including the large convention space” which can accommodate 1,000 persons banquet-style or 2,500 concert-style.

“The future hotel will support our overarching vision of becoming a regional destination,” said Fox-LaRose.

Education meets industry needs

Washington State University runs the third-oldest hospitality school in the nation – it was founded in 1932. In 2013, WSU Vancouver’s campus opened a School of Hospitality Business Management (HBM) in response to industry demand for highly skilled hospitality-focused workers.

“Enrollment is growing year over year – we started with six students and now have 20,” said Florian Zach, a Tod and Maxine McClaskey Faculty Fellow for the HBM program.

Graduates from the program are already working in the Vancouver/Portland metro area, and the program attracts students from Oregon and California as well as Washington.

“It’s great that Vancouver is adding hotels,” said Zach. “It’s a sign that investors trust that there will be demand in the future.”

Zach said that the HBM program has “sufficient capacity” at the moment, and does not intend to add more staff in the near future. However, starting next spring the program is adding a new hospitality sales course.

“We developed this course based on feedback from an industry focus group,” said Zach. “It’s the first and only hospitality sales course in the WSU system.”

The HBM program works closely with local hotels, and students must complete 1,000 hours of internships to graduate. Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager for the Ilani Resort and Casino, said she has “begun discussions” with the HBM program and intends to hold a job fair at the Vancouver campus in the near future.

“I expect there to be a high demand for our students, based on the new development,” said Zach.

Jodie Gilmore
Jodie Gilmore’s journalistic background includes more than 15 years of writing for the Vancouver Business Journal as well as other publications such as Northwest Women’s Journal, North Bank Magazine, American Builders Quarterly and The New American. A Master’s in Technical & Professional Writing and 20+ years in the trenches as a technical writer and online help developer round out her writing background. When not writing, she enjoys gardening and working on her small farm in the Cascade foothills.

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