Charlotte hotel operators see strong market, big concern

While the overall strength of the Charlotte region’s economy is fueling room demand and new hotel development, there are ongoing concerns about the impact of HB2.

Vinay Patel, president and CEO of SREE, whose uptown SpringHill Suites is on track to deliver in March, expressed confidence in the market, despite backlash from HB2. But, he said, it may not be known for awhile how far-reaching and long-lasting the hit will be on the hotel industry.

Vinay Patel, CEO of SREE Hotels, stands in front of the construction site for the new Springhill Suites Marriott that is adjacent to the uptown area. 

Vinay Patel, CEO of SREE Hotels, stands in front of the construction site for the new Springhill Suites Marriott that is adjacent to the uptown area. 

The controversial state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people cost Charlotte a range of major events last year including the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

“It would have been great to have the All-Star Game, but we won’t know (the impact) until we know,” he said. “I would say it’s probably not as bad as (some) people are saying, but we potentially won’t see the upset until further down the road. We might say that everything is going along fine because people already doing business contractually have to, but will they come back and do it again? That could be detrimental to the business.”

Mitch Linder, director of operations in the Southeast for Kimpton Hotels, expressed the San Francisco-based company’s “disappointment” with former Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to sign HB2 into law.

“The bill does not reflect our value of inclusiveness, and we continue to advocate for change,” Linder said. “We continue to strongly urge the governor and North Carolina legislature to move swiftly to repeal this law.”

But would the law impact any decisions by Kimpton to develop future hotels in Charlotte and North Carolina? Not necessarily.

“We believe that we can affect the most change by leading with our mission and our brand message and by being an active part of our communities, including North Carolina,” Linder said. “That will remain core to our brand wherever we see the opportunity to grow.”

Vince Chelena, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, said the biggest impact in the hotel industry from HB2 has been on hospitality workers, many of whom count on major events like the NBA All-Star Game to clock in overtime at fully-booked hotels. The cancellation of major events has led to employees having to share shifts rather than taking on additional shifts and, consequently, less take-home pay.

“They count on (overtime pay) to feed families, pay rent, pay power bills,” Chelena said. “It’s impacted us from the standpoint that we need to keep those employees. When times are extremely busy, we need every single one of them. With all of the hotel development, it’s a competitive environment for hotel employment.”

Ashley Fahey
Staff Writer
Charlotte Business Journal

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