Hospitality industry looks toward busy 2017

FLORENCE, S.C. — BY JOE PERRY Morning News jperry@florencenews.com The hospitality industry expects steady growth in 2017. Raldex Hospitality President Greg Parsons said the company is looking forward to breaking ground on new corporate offices on Celebration Boulevard within the next 60 days to create about 7,000 square feet of workspace. “We’ve been looking forward to that for a long time,” he said. Construction of Staybridge Suites – 112 rooms on eight floors – is well underway with an anticipated opening in the first quarter of 2018 on West Radio Drive behind the Holiday Inn Express. A key facet of Staybridge is a ballroom that’s about 2,500 square feet and divides into separate meeting rooms if needed to accommodate the many corporate meetings Staybridge hosts. Raldex is also completely renovating the Holiday Inn Express and already has about a third of the project completed for the 87-room property. “It’s a complete renovation of the rooms, the lobby and breakfast area,” Parsons said. The work should be done by June. Overall, he sees 2017 as being a little busier than 2016. “We expect numbers to be up slightly; we’re very excited about 2018 because of Staybridge, the expansion of the (Florence) Civic Center and improvements to Radio Drive and Woody Jones Boulevard,” he said. The road work is expected to improve traffic flow and use sidewalks to get hotel guests safely to restaurants. “There’s a lot of exciting things going on that will really come together in 2018." Parsons said. "We’ll be moving from about 230 team members to almost 300 with the opening of Staybridge, so we’re adding jobs.” Ron Glancy, vice president of operations at Raines Hospitality, also expects a banner year. “It’s definitely going to be our busiest year ever on the development side of things,” he said. “We’ll have two hotels opening within 90 days of each other, which is a first for us.” Around the first of February, the 86-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, developed in conjunction with SpringBridge Development LLC, will open with a main entrance off Woody Jones Boulevard as Hospitality Boulevard adds another option for travelers and business people. Glancy expects by mid-April a Courtyard by Marriot in Cayce with 100 rooms will be open as well. “And as soon as that opens, we’ll start construction on the Hyatt Place downtown,” he said. That project should take about a year to complete. It is also a project developed by SpringBridge that will be managed by Raines Hospitality. In the Mount Pleasant area, Raines is looking to add to its portfolio in that market, Glancy said, as a Cambria Suites should “bubble up to the top” sometime in 2018. The homegrown company will also look to bolster its roster and add about 50 employees to the 200-strong work force in 2017 and perhaps another 75 to 80 in 2018, he said. “We’re excited about our growth and the way we are going,” he said. “A lot of work goes into opening a hotel and we’re really proud to see how our team comes together to open a property.” In a regular newsletter, President Grey Raines made note of the Hyatt Place construction and asked folks to be on the lookout for “other big announcements throughout the year.” “We want to thank everyone for your continued support in helping make this a great year for us,” Raines wrote. “With this support, we are able to grow and expand our horizons greater than we could have imagined.”