Local hotels overcome hurdles of city’s size

March 7, 2018

COLUMBUS – Although most hotels’ operations are sustained through tourism, hotels in the Columbus area look to local businesses, conventions and sporting events for revenue.

Due to Columbus’ scarcity of tourism attractions, it can be tough for hotels to attract guests, which is why most guests staying in these hotels consist of corporate people and traveling sporting teams.

Hotels like the Holiday Inn Express and Suites and the Ramada Columbus Hotel and Conference Center work closely with local businesses.

Since Columbus has a rich manufacturing industry, it brings in guests from out of state and international guests. Big manufacturing companies, including BD Medical and Behlen Mfg. Co., often times have regional managers come visit or conduct their training in town. Because of this, it is common for these companies to reach out to hotels for accommodations.

Most hotels offer business-negotiated rates for corporate stays.

“They bring people from all over the world,” said Dan Groene, general manager at Holiday Inn.

Since the Holiday Inn is a business hotel, its ideally located close to many of Columbus’ industrial hubs.

“We usually sell out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and that’s because of all the factories here in town,” Groene said.

Because many guests are corporate people, the peak season starts from mid-January through November before the holiday season.

The holiday season and weekends tend to be the slower times of the year for the hotels and there is a big need to bring in more business during these times, Groene said.

Aside from businesses, most hotels will research events happening in the area and in neighboring towns to attract guests.

Groene said that they’ve had guests coming in for the Husker Harvest and the Nebraska State Fair that took place in Grand Island.

When sporting events take place in Columbus, hotels attract numerous traveling teams from bigger cities like Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island.

According to Joyce Napier, general manager at Ramada, her facility is the only hotel in the local area with its own conference center and restaurant. This means that a substantial portion of its revenues comes from hosting events and conventions that attract 150-500 guests.

However, having too many events happening at the same time can also be a drawback for hotels. Hotels with limited rooms are unable to accommodate everyone.

This leaves a bad impression on guests, especially those from out of Nebraska, and discourages them to come back in the future because they feel that Columbus is too small, Groene said.

With this being said, the Columbus Area Sports and Activities Council is working toward not only bringing in more sporting events but to also ensuring that they are more spread out.

A little goes a long way when it comes to attracting more families to hotels. For every guest that comes into the Holiday Inn, staff advertises attractions like Horn T Zoo at Monroe and Pawnee Plunge Water Park in hopes that these attractions will bring in more customers.

Another big struggle some hotels face is employment.

Due to Columbus’ low employment rate, it is tough to find the right people to occupy positions, Napier said.

In the end, all these hotels share the same goal of increasing occupancy and revenues. When guests come in, it brings in revenue not only for the hotels but also for local businesses, as well.