Hotels hope tourists follow room boom

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A boom in the construction of hotel rooms has some proprietors wondering whether the scant winter business will support all of them.

Two new hotels are under construction. Another opened last spring and three other hotels have expanded.

Altogether, Fairbanks will have more than 600 rooms next year that didn't exist two years ago. The hotel boom has increased capacity, which was roughly 2,600 rooms, in Fairbanks by about 20 percent, according to the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau.

''The summers will be fine. It's the winters that frighten us most,'' said Lloyd Husky, general manager at Pike's Waterfront Lodge, a 182-room hotel that opened in May.

Pike's Lodge developers had heard rumors about competitors before building. It was after ground was broken that they learned the other hotels were actually coming in, Husky said.

The 97-room Aspen Hotel on Fairbanks' west side is slated to be finished in April, followed by the 140-room Marriot SpringHill Suites hotel, under construction downtown.

Three other businesses offering overnight stays have expanded. The Princess added 126 rooms, River's Edge Resort built 38 cottages and added eight hotel rooms, and Chena Hot Springs Resort, about an hour east of Fairbanks, grew by 40 rooms.

''We weren't aware the hotels were going up when we initially planned for these rooms,'' said Princess general manager Vicki Parrish.

Managers of new or expanded hotels say they plan to distinguish themselves with pricing and amenities.

Deb Hickok, executive director of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said winter tourism seems to be up this year, ''but we're still talking about much smaller numbers than the summer.

''We're very concerned about losing market share because the Scandinavian countries and our Canadian neighbor are putting a lot of money into marketing in Japan,'' Hickok said.

Japanese tourists travel to Fairbanks to view northern lights and are virtually the only travelers to visit in winter in large groups.

Hickok said FCVB wants to expand the winter traveler base to include people attending conventions and people in search of an Alaska winter experience.

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