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Roundtable on possible hotel finds that Windber may not be marketing its assets

May 11, 2018

Lindsey Kaptur and Gregory Hanis, of Hospitality Marketers International in Fort Myers, Florida, visited Windber Borough Wednesday and Thursday to conduct a marketing and feasibility study. The point of the study is to determine whether Windber is a marketable area for a hotel.

About 25 civic leaders and business people attended a group discussion Thursday to voice their thoughts and concerns to Kaptur and Hanis at the Windber hospital.

Kaptur said they were looking for insight on why people might stay at a hotel in town.

“A hotel is built based on a diversity in why people come to an area,” she said. “This is kind of the key that gets you talking with hotel brands.”

Windber Borough Manager Jim Furmanchik said he is certain there are enough activities in the area for people to need a hotel.

Furmanchik mentioned a four-day event in Windber called Miners’ Memorial Day Weekend and Johnstown’s Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally as examples of local activities that attract thousands of people from outside the community.

Eureka Coal Heritage Foundation President Matt Scislowicz added that the Miners event has had up to 25,000 people attend in past years. Hanis said Windber has an impressive community with its medical center and other nearby attractions, such as the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek Township. “You don’t find communities like this from across the country,” he said.

He said he could not find many of the local attractions listed on the Windber website.

“Your website has very little (reference) of what you just talked about,” Hanis told attendees. “It’s one of the (area’s) best kept secrets.”

Hanis said a hotel would have to be built in accordance with zoning and code requirements.

Windber Area Economic Development Committee President John Venzon said he does not consider state requirements to be an issue for getting a hotel in Windber. “You know you have to deal with that. I don’t consider that at all to be an issue because you can overcome all that stuff. It’s getting that client to your hotel. That’s the issue that I have,” he said.

Venzon offered a solution to get drivers to stop in Windber Borough and stay at a hotel.

“How do we get them here? You market it. We need a marketing group in Windber,” Venzon said.

Hanis said, however, that marketing the area would not attract big hotel brands. “A lot of times it takes a local interest and we need local support from financial institutions,” Hanis said.

It is unclear when the study’s results are to be shared with the public, or whether a hotel is to be built in Windber if the results were positive.