Explosive hotel growth puts Butler County above state average

Hotel construction continues to boom in Butler County, especially along the stretch of Interstate 75 between the Union Centre Boulevard and Liberty Way interchanges.

Six hotels have opened in the past three years near those exits, adding hundreds of jobs and 477 hotel rooms to the area. That’s brought the county to 3,000 rooms in all, more than half of which are in West Chester and Liberty townships.

Next up are the 390 new rooms coming via three West Chester Twp. projects, two just off Cox Road and Liberty Way and the third along Muhlhauser Road. Two hotels are planned for Liberty Center’s next stage of growth as well as two hotels on property just off Cox Road in Liberty Twp.

The hotel industry’s explosive growth has been a shot in the arm for the county’s lodging tax, which soared to nearly $1.1 million in 2015 and could exceed $1.4 million for 2016. That’s a far cry from the $655,106 in lodging tax amassed in 2006 and the years that followed, especially the declines experienced in 2009 and 2010.

“That income is used by local governments to develop new and support existing infrastructure,” said Mark Hecquet, executive director for the Butler County Visitors Bureau. “If there were no visitors, each resident would have to pay approximately an additional $650 a year in taxes to fill this gap.”

Smith Travel Research Occupancy statistics show Butler County hotel numbers continuing to trend “well above state averages” and the average daily rate for a room in Butler County is up 3.7 percent when compared with last year, Hecquet said.

“It is these factors, in addition to the strong business community and new tourism-related developments like Liberty Center, Cincinnati’s Children’s Proton Therapy Center, Main Event Entertainment, Topgolf, Cabela’s and Voice of America Sports Complex that are driving future hotel development,” Hecquet said.

New and future hotel growth is likely to be sustained by a number of new demand generators driving new visitors in the future, including Liberty Center’s future expansions, new retail and dining developments coming to the Streets of West Chester, a potential major indoor sports complex in Hamilton, and the expansion of park facilities in Fairfield, Hecquet said.

There’s also the planned expansion of the Millikin Interchange in Liberty Twp., AK Steel’s new research facility in Middletown and additional growth of new medical facilities such as Christ Hospital Medical Center and a TriHealth outpatient center just off Cox Road in Liberty Twp.

In 2015, tourism in Butler County generated over $1.1 billion in sales, supported over 13,000 jobs and contributed more than $26 million in local taxes.

“Visitors spend billions of dollars in local economies,” Hecquet said. “The money invested into our local economy by tourists circulates throughout our economy several times over, providing an ongoing economic impact that would disappear entirely without tourism.”

Ohio hotel supply growth

The growth of the hotel market in Ohio has been strong and continues to be so going into 2017, a reflection of performance of the industry overall, and a basically sound underlying economy, according to Joe Savarise, executive director of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association.

Through November, Ohio’s hotels saw growth in 2016 from the previous year in key performance measurements of average daily rates ($98.07) and revenue per room ($60.02), Savarise said.

“Even with the considerable addition of hotel capacity coming on line in 2016, we remained virtually the same in occupancy rate compared to 2015,” which was 61.2 percent, he said.

The greater Cincinnati market actually outperformed the state as a whole in that period for hotel occupancy, at nearly 66 percent, Savarise said.

Ohio has a strong travel economy, and hotel growth is an important part of that, he said.

“We will continue to see exciting new hotel projects of all sizes, and new hotel brands entering our market in 2017,” he said. “All of this growth has a positive impact on the economy of the entire state.”

That’s because overnight visitors spend on average more than three times the amount of daytrip visitors, Savarise said. Hotel development leads to additional growth in retail, restaurant and other businesses in the immediate vicinity. Across the state, more than 420,000 jobs are supported by travel and tourism, he said.

Nationally, hotels had a record occupancy rate in 2016 — more than 65 percent. Looking ahead, experts forecast hotel demand to continue to increase in 2017.

“While the additional capacity may cause the growth rate to slow slightly next year, we still forecast positive numbers,” Savarise said.

The question that remains about Butler County’s hotel building boom isn’t the amount of rooms, but rather the type of hotels, Hecquet said.

“A number of diverse hotel products and brands is much more sustainable as it is attractive to a much broader group of potential travelers,” Hecquet said. “As an example, the addition of (Liberty Center’s) AC Marriott, a new hotel brand unlike any style of hotel in our marketplace, has been very popular and successful.”

Hotel data largely influences developers’ decisions to build, and Butler County over the past five years has seen higher-than-average industry increases for occupancy and average daily rate, which is reflected in the number of new hotels being constructed, Hecquet said.

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Fairfield: 660

Hamilton: 210

Liberty Twp.: 222

Monroe: 49

Oxford: 407

West Chester Twp.: 1,452

Total number of rooms: 3,000

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