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Will central NY be able to fill all the new hotel rooms?

Ellen Abbott
Construction of the new Embassy Suites near Destiny USA

Developers are asking the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency for tax breaks to build a new Hampton Inn in Syracuse’s trendy Armory Square neighborhood. But it comes at a time when new hotels are sprouting up all over central New York.

In the past few years, several new properties have opened their doors in the Syracuse area, most notably three new Marriott properties downtown and an Aloft Hotel in the Inner Harbor. Between now and fall, a Hampton Inn on Buckley Road and an Embassy Suites at Destiny USA will open their doors. Construction then heats up on other projects, including a hotel at the location of the former Howard Johnson’s in Carrier Circle.

“By the end of 2018 we’re projecting to have between 20 to 25 percent of new inventory on the books, that wasn’t in place at the end of 2015,” said Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau President David Holder.

Holder says it’s something that’s happening all over the country, but the question is, does the Syracuse area have enough visitors to stay in all those rooms? Currently, it can be hard to find a room during big event weekends, like college graduations. But the challenge is getting people into those rooms when there isn’t a large event drawing people to the region.

“It all comes down to how much raw demand, general travel demand, we start generating at other times of the year. And that’s where we’re going to really watch it,” Holder said.

And not everyone does think Syracuse will be able to support so many hotel rooms. At least one member of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency is balking at the idea of giving developers of the Hampton Inn in Syracuse’s Armory Square tax breaks to help them build a property, because of the proliferation of hotel rooms in central New York.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
The Aloft Hotel in Syracuse

Holder says that’s where the selling of Syracuse as a tourism destination comes in. A campaign naming Syracuse as the “Official Home of Winter” had a promising start this year. And attempts to bring in more international travelers have been successful. The one thing Holder finds encouraging is the fact that the community is being seen as a tourist destination.

“Destiny USA is kind of the big jumpstart we needed for that, because it brought in international attention. And it changed the way people think of Syracuse,” said Holder.

But the Trump administration’s travel ban is causing concern that fewer international tourists may be willing to travel. Holder says New York City has already projected a drop of 10 percent in international travel this year as a result of the proposed travel restrictions. For upstate, it could mean fewer Canadians crossing the border, to shop and play.

“We truly have seen that trickle into our marketplace. We know that Toronto schools actually issued a travel restriction for field trips to the United States. That automatically impacts all the destinations in New York state.”

Holder says many of Syracuse’s tourism dollars come from Canadians visiting from the Ottawa and Toronto metro areas.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.