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Dickinson hotels see increase over summer months

Darren Bleth, the general manager of LaQuinta Inn & Suites Dickinson stands in the lobby of the hotel that was constructed during the oil boom. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stutls)

Hotels in Dickinson saw an increase in visitors over the summer months in 2016 compared with 2015.

Terri Thiel, executive director of the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that hotel occupancy was down overall in 2016 compared with 2015's year-end occupancy rate, which Thiel attributes to a slow first quarter in 2016.

STR, a data and analytic company's research showed that Dickinson hotels' occupancy was down 6.7 percent at year end with about 30 percent occupancy and an average daily rate just slightly less than $70.

The same report showed that in July 2016 occupancy was up by 5 percent. Occupancy kept climbing in August at almost 14 percent and 18 percent in September.

Thiel said she takes that as a positive and encouraging thing to see.

"I was pleased with the uptick we had this last year in the leisure travel," she said. "I'm encouraged by this. Those other numbers in the first quarter really pushed it down, but we had a really good second, third and fourth quarters."

She said that a few things played into the summer months being successful including Dickinson's proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, as the National Park Service celebrated its 100th year of existence in 2016.

TRNP was also ranked number five in "52 Places to Go in 2016" by the New York Times, which brought even more publicity to western North Dakota.

In August, the occupancy rate was at 68 percent, double what it was in December of the same year, but Thiel said that is pretty common given the lack of winter travel to the area.

"It's just quieter in the winter," she said. "People can come out and do hiking and do things year-round in the park."

She said that there is a major need for entrepreneurs to take advantage of all of the outdoor activities that could be profitable in the winter season.

The CVB would help with the marketing if someone was interested in starting up a snow shoeing business offering guided hikes or cross country ski rentals that could bring people to the region for the season.

"There are a lot of opportunities here if people wanted to do it," she said. "We really, as a state, need more entrepreneurs who can make product that we can sell to people because there is a demand. If people were creating these things we could market that in the winter."

Darren Bleth, the general manager of LaQuinta Inn & Suites Dickinson, said that it is a guests' market right now with low hotel room prices and a plethora of hotels to choose from in Dickinson.

"In the past the availability wasn't there, people weren't able to feasibly stay in Dickinson because it wasn't affordable, whereas now it's gone back to pre-energy where people can afford to stay here," he said. "We're pretty much all competing for the same guest or the same consumer."

Bleth said he would guess around eight hotels were built because of the demand during the oil boom.

He said that the average hotel rate is currently around $85 a night during the week and a little less on the weekend whereas during the oil boom the rate was more around the $135 rate.

Bleth said with the occupancy rates and the hotel prices being driven by the market, hotels are facing similar circumstances to what the housing market in Dickinson is experiencing—high supply and low demand.