Gladewater woos inn crowd

Back in 1994, The Gladewater Mirror’s front page Dec. 21 heralded the looming development of a new two-story, 37-room motel at 1101 East Broadway.
It’s been almost three decades since “Council hangs out welcome sign” for today’s Regency Inn still operating at the site. Meanwhile, local officials are dusting off the sign once again, hoping to land another lodging operation in town.
In June, Gladewater Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors committed $8,500 for a hotel feasibility study by HVS, a Dallas-based hospitality consulting firm.
It’s a proactive step to stop “leaking” overnight stays to the hotels and motels of Longview and Tyler, according to former mayor and GEDCO’s interim executive director, Scott Owens: if Gladewater aims to profit more from community visitors, the city needs to put heads in beds here, and wishing won’t make it so.
“I think we all think and know we need a quality hotel,” Owens said. “This puts hard data into it for the decision makers.
“It’s up to the investors. We’ve got to get them the data so that they can get the return on their investment.”
The team from HVS has already been to town for an initial visit, and they’re now crunching the numbers from available public data and proprietary sources to find where Gladewater falls in the lodging equation.
“You’ve got four major players – like Marriott, Hilton, IGH – that have multiple brands,” Owens said, “from luxury brands and spa resorts down to the economy traveler,” and analysts are working to determine which subset would appeal most to Gladewater visitors. “They just wanted to get the feel for the community.”
The crew will return for additional insights, such as interviewing various people involved with a range of local events and destinations. Gladewater Round-Up Rodeo draws substantial crowds along with Gusher Days, the Gladewater Arts & Crafts Fair and holiday events.
It’s more than large-scale events, Owens added. Gladewater’s community ballpark is a developing draw along with regular visitors for private reunions, weddings and other events that might be held at, for example, the Gladewater Former Students Building. Likewise, entertainment venues Jackson’s Cozy Theatre and The Stockyard Steakhouse have activities to woo overnight guests.
“With the first blush of this, they felt there would be no issue with weekend capacity. They’ll be looking at what kind of occupancy they’d have during the week,” whether from business travelers, antique shoppers or others.
There’s no specific site to speak of at this point, but there are plenty of options – depending on what the data shows.
“A hotel doesn’t necessarily need to be right on the highway,” Owens noted. “You need to have some visibility of a sign but with travelers now booking online and using a GPS, it needs to be accessible but not right on the highway.”
Notably, GEDCO and its stakeholders, as well as its partners, face restrictions on what can be said about a given project.
There are some preliminary leads, Owens allowed, but nothing that’s ready for public consumption.
“Very preliminary,” he added. “I have gotten some indication, but I don’t want to share that yet, not until we get hard data.”
That said, he anticipates solid development within two months at the outside.

– By James Draper

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