To the Advertiser-Gleam:
I am writing to you not just as a Guntersville resident, but as someone who is a meeting and event planner with a hotel background. I have eagerly watched the harbor renovation. The development so far is an attractive addition to Northtown and appears to add value to our city.
I agree with Mr. Larry Wilson’s comments in the paper regarding the importance of preserving and maintaining green space for locals and visitors to enjoy. Also, I have concerns about the plan to sell Mr. Lawler a city-owned harbor lot for $10, instead of for fair market value. His proposal to build an extended stay hotel with in-room kitchens does not seem to be a prudent idea from many perspectives, including since short-term rental condominiums have already been constructed at the harbor.
If the City wishes to have a hotel built at the harbor, a uniquely designed, boutique hotel property would be more in keeping with the vision of Northtown. Such a distinctive property would be a signature piece of the tourism plan for the city and, like the harbor project, would create a point of pride for Guntersville. Higher end, boutique hotels also attract the attention of travel writers and meeting & event planners who help promote the property’s and city’s assets.
A boutique hotel is part of a travel destination and not simply a place to lay your head. Boutique properties blend into the look and feel of the environment where they are located. Because these properties are not “cookie cutter” in design, they allow for flexibility such as enticing rooftop pools and bars. Such a hotel would appeal to visitors looking to experience a unique place to stay as they explore the special city our community has worked to achieve. Couples’ getaways, girlfriend trips, destination weddings, corporate meetings and executive retreats are just a few of the target travel markets the city will miss if a nondescript hotel is built by the harbor. These types of guests will browse in our local shops, and since boutique hotels do not usually have their own in-room kitchen facilities, these guests are more likely to eat often at nearby restaurants.
Additional meeting space is also needed in Guntersville to attract corporate business and social events. Small meeting rooms found in a boutique hotel will not compete with the new harbor ballroom but will enhance the City’s capacity to allow for smaller corporate and social events.
The City of Guntersville does need to bring new hotel rooms online. However, allowing economy, chain hotels to be built in the heart of the historic and harbor areas of town should be avoided. Mr. Lawler can relocate the property to another area of Guntersville if he has committed to build the hotel. Space is available in proximity outside of Northtown to locate these kinds of hotels and still make them part of the tourism strategy.
In general, the target market for these properties will be fishing tournaments, sport tournaments and family trips. These guests will still come to the harbor, but the anglers and the kids are not interested in a stroll down Main Street. A signature, destination hotel property should encourage more year-round occupancy, and result in a higher per night revenue for the City and more income for our local businesspeople.
Please let Mayor Dollar and the City Council know your thoughts on the proposal if you would like to see a different plan for the harbor to include dedicated green space and a desire for a distinctive hotel built that enhances the City’s tourism offering. Also, please plan to attend the June 20 City Council meeting. There will be a public forum to discuss the harbor lot proposal and the vote will take place at that meeting whether or not to give Mr. Lawler the space to build an economy, extended stay hotel.
All the Best,
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