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Dickinson Marriott hotel to open Tuesday, Management not deterred by slowdown

Lisa Sanborn, general manager of the new Towneplace Suites in Dickinson, spent Friday preparing for the hotel’s Tuesday opening. It took almost a year to construct the 90-room Marriott hotel.

Travelers in Dickinson will soon have a new place to temporarily call home.

The 90-room TownePlace Suites, the first Marriott hotel built in Dickinson, is finishing up the last touches of an 11-month construction period before opening to guests for the first time this Tuesday.

Brent Newbry, regional director of sales at Lodging Dynamics Hospitality Group, the national management company for TownePlace Suites, said the extended-stay facility has been planned for several years and that it “will still be a very popular hotel in Dickinson” regardless of the energy industry’s slowdown.

“I feel like it’s going to be a great spot for those that are still coming to Dickinson and wanting a great place to be,” Newbry said.

He cited customer loyalty to Marriott through their rewards programs as a strong point for the hotel and believed the company’s name, which Newbry called a “power brand,” will boost the location’s prospects.

Ownership of the Dickinson TownePlace Suites is under a “kind of conglomerate of groups,” Newbry said, brought under the banner of ND Dickinson Lodging Associates.

Of the groups involved, he said the primary provider of capital was a company called ND Land Lodging.

Lisa Sanborn, general manager of TownePlace Suites, said the slower economy “really doesn’t affect our operations at this point.”

Sanborn, busy overseeing the final electrical work and painting before the hotel officially puts out its welcome, said she and her 17 staff members were “just excited to be bringing the first Marriott” to Dickinson.

Terri Thiel, director of the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the addition of TownePlace Suites will raise the city hospitality industry’s total room count to about 1,803, split between 22 properties.

According to bureau data, Dickinson has gained 992 rooms since 2009. In that time, the single-largest gain was a total addition of 328 rooms in 2012.

The increase in lodging and the decline in demand prompted by the energy sector’s slowdown has resulted in lower occupancy rates than in years past.

Thiel said the average rate for last year was a little more than 48 percent, but cautioned that non-franchise hotels don’t often report their data.

Because of the economic effect of low oil prices, Thiel said, extended-stay hotels seeking business from workers are “probably over-extended, as an industry.”

“They obviously had a market they were after, and that was the energy development and the growth of the workers coming in -- sometimes targeting executives, sometimes targeting those short-term workers,” she said. “It’s a cycle now and it’s obvious that has changed here.”

Thiel said the cyclical nature meant we would “probably see some workers coming back” to staff various city or regional projects.

A return of outside help could help fill rooms, she said, but the slowdown could also motivate companies to pursue the most cost-effective housing available, which may not be a hotel.

Outside of the economic cycle, Thiel said the seasonal nature of the hospitality industry would likely provide an increase in leisure travel through the summer months, which could lift occupancy for Dickinson’s hotels.

Newbry said TownePlace intended to partner with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to boost its integration into the community

He added that local response “so far has been great.”

“People are excited to have a new hotel and share in the understanding that it’s unique timing right now to open a hotel,” Newbry said. “That said, everybody loves to have a new shiny building to put their guests at.”

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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