No vacancy, no problem
ALAMOSA — With a little creativity, Alamosa could still accommodate visitors when the local hotels are booked.
Tossing out ideas such as camping near the city recreation center and Airbnb, members of the Alamosa Marketing District board during their meeting Thursday night talked about how Alamosa might be able to expand its lodging capacity.
The board said some visitors have been unhappy when they have reserved and paid for rooms in local hotels and then arrived to find their rooms were unavailable or they would have to pay more to get them. With room rates at about $200 a night, folks are not happy to have to pay more to keep the room they already reserved, board members said.
The board members added, however, that the marketing board could not control hotel owners, as the hotels are private businesses and private properties.
They could, however, share information about other lodging alternatives, especially during times like Early Iron Festival and Rails & Ales when every room in town and the surrounding towns is booked. Because there are no more rooms for people to rent in town, events like these have not been able to expand their attendance, the board added.
“It’s simply a capacity issue,” said marketing board member Matt Abbey, Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. “We can’t do more because there’s nowhere for people to sleep.”
Board member Jeff Woodward, president of the Early Iron Club, added, “It’s supply and demand. We face this issue every year with Early Iron.”
He said Early Iron guests pay $235 a night in local hotels during the festival. He compared Alamosa rates with $180-a-night hotel rooms in Denver for weekends or $95-100 a night in the Denver Tech Center neighborhood on weekends. Rooms in Gunnison can run $120-150 a night, he added, while rates during Pueblo’s rodder show run $130-180 a night.
If the marketing board were to talk to local hotel owners about their booking practices or rates, board members said, the hotel owners would likely respond that if one person walked away unhappy, there would be someone else to take his place.
Liz Thomas Hensley, who is the City of Alamosa’s liaison to the marketing board, said that is not the kind of image Alamosa wants to portray. She said some of the folks here for the firefighters’ convention were very upset.
“This is not a new problem,” said Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jamie Greeman. She said the last time the wildfire academy was here organizers said they would never come back, but they did.
She said the marketing district could not tell folks how to run their private businesses.
Marketing District Board President Rob Oringdulph said he wanted folks who come to Alamosa to have a good experience, and there’s nothing worse than arriving at a hotel where the guest already paid for a room and has a reservation but finds out the room is not available or it will cost $30 more to keep it.
“That’s extortion,” Abbey said.
Oringdulph said obviously there was room for expansion, because Alamosa has seen the addition of a couple of new hotels in recent years. He wondered if another property offering 50-60 more rooms would help take the pressure off.
Greeman said this summer was an anomaly because there were so many events at the same time. Room capacity is not the same problem in February, she added.
“It’s not an easy solution, because we are not big enough. As much as I would like to have another hotel, it might be pushing it a little bit.”
Marketing board member Jeff Owsley said hotel rooms are only one way to spend a night in a place. He suggested there might be other creative solutions, such as campgrounds. He said that there might be quite a few of the younger crowd attending Rails & Ales, for example, that would like to camp if they knew where to go.
Abbey said Airbnb is another option. In that case, residents in an area open their homes for short-term stays.
Hensley said Adams State University has offered its room when they are available, and Oringdulph questioned whether the city might allow camping in city parks for special events. Abbey added that near the rec center would also be a good location because of the proximity to showers and restrooms. Many Ride the Rockies participants camped near the rec center before that tour began.
Abbey said these types of alternatives could be offered to attendees at special events that usually sell out the local hotels.
Greeman said home stays were offered as an option to Ride the Rockies cyclists and out of 2,000 only 10 riders chose that option.
“They would rather camp at the ball fields than do Airbnb,” she said.
She added that it sounded like a good idea, and Airbnb pays lodging taxes. Oringdulph said someone staying in a tent by the rec center would not be paying lodging taxes, however.
Marketing district board member Cathy Simpson said even camping spots would bring people into town to shop.
Abbey said he would love to see a hotel near the train depot at Sixth and State. That would be a great boost to the downtown area, he said.
Oringdulph said the board had come up with some good ideas, and he asked what would be the next step. Owsley suggested that the board identify the events that are selling out and by next year develop some creative lodging options for those events. The group also asked Hensley if she could go back to the city council to see if the rec center could be part of those creative options.
Oringdulph concluded, “This fall let’s discuss this a little bit further and see if we can put something together.”