Rooms for tourists Inner Harbor: While several hotels are being proposed, only one is likely to be built soon.

December 12, 1996

WITH THREE different investor groups talking about building, Baltimore is assured of its first new hotel since 1988. Maybe not three but at least one. This is good news. A hotel of 800 rooms or more is essential to increase business at the city's newly expanded Convention Center.

It is not clear which of the rival investor groups eventually will build that first new hotel. Because of its worldwide reach and expertise, Westin Hotels & Resorts has to be regarded as having an inside track. But if its proposed $160 million hotel is to happen, the firm needs to get certain concessions from the city.

The city's current hoteliers disagree on whether another hotel is needed. Some argue that the existing capacity is adequate, others say another big hotel would mean more business to everyone. Similarly there is no agreement as to where a new hotel should be built. Some favor the Inner Harbor, which is basically where Westin as well as David Cordish and John Paterakis have proposed to build. Others say an even bigger, 1,200-room hotel ought to be constructed closer to the enlarged Convention Center.

When Carroll R. Armstrong left San Diego to take the job as president of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, he was amazed at the generally high prices of hotels here. That was understandable. Unlike San Diego, where it is possible to get a decent room for under $50 a night, Baltimore City has no reputable budget hotels. Yet this is an important market segment that ought to be served, if Baltimore truly desires to be a major tourist and convention town.

At the present time, most Baltimore hotels insist they are in the luxury category. Any hotel that will be built near the Inner Harbor will obviously charge prices that reflect its premium location. Nothing wrong with that. But if enough new rooms are built, the law of supply and demand might divide the city's inns into first and second tiers.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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