Lack of lodging worrying to some in Newton

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By Adam Strunk

NEWTON—Newton’s hotels are low on vacancies.

That’s according to the front desks of both the Holiday Inn Express and The Comfort Inn.

“We’ve been full pretty much all season,” said Cat Olson, front desk manager for The Comfort Inn, 1205 E 1st St, Newton.

Olson said, for the Comfort Inn, much of the demand was being driven by regular events, such as school activities, weddings and funerals. She said corporate stays or bookings for staff did account for some of the stays at the hotel, but it varied by week.

The front desk of the Holiday Inn Express reported a good number of long-term stays at the hotel, with much of those stays housing crews employed at AGCO, and that the hotel had been tight since around July of 2021.

The tightness of hotel lodging has made it harder for groups to host conventions in Newton.

Emily Bradbury, executive director of the Kansas Press Association, said that they barely found enough room in Newton for their upcoming convention.

The Kansas Press Association booked the Meridian Center for its annual convention. Usually, those at a Meridian Center convention stay at the nearby Holiday Inn Express.

“We had just enough rooms for the staff at the Holiday Inn, and the Comfort Inn was able to come up with hotel rooms,” Bradbury said.

With the KPA hosting another event in October in Newton, she said they’ve already begun to think about booking rooms in advance.

The City of Newton also discussed the lack of hotel space at a previous budget work session.

“We discovered it when we were trying to get hotel rooms for different people,” Finance Director Donna Pickman said. “People were telling us they can’t get rooms.”

Hotel stays help fund a number of city expenditures through bed tax levied on the stays.

The revenue funds the debt payments for improvements, such as the Holiday Inn Express. The bed tax also funds the Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Pickman said long-term stays could possibly drive down city revenues from the stays. After 28 days, guests no longer qualify as transient, meaning they no longer are subject to a transient bed tax.

Pickman said the city will continue to monitor the situation to see if the increase in long-term stays does drive down revenues.

She said that the city does have the reserves for a few years of lower bed-tax revenue. She added that there could be a need in the city for an additional hotel.

“We need another hotel, because we can’t fill Meridian Center to capacity because we can’t hold the people,” she said. “We had a big tournament and all had to stay in Wichita and we lost out on the revenue.”

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