Fans take in the action on the 12th hole from the 1761 Club, during practice rounds of the 70th US Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club Wednesday July 8, 2015. (Photo/Chris Knight)

Lancaster hotels expect busy weekend thanks to championship, other events

Posted: July 9, 2015 2:53 pm

Even with the U.S.Women’s Open in Lancaster, visitors to the area should still be able to find hotel rooms in the county this weekend.

They just might have to call around a bit to find them.

“I’m full, just not with the U.S. Open,” said John Watts, regional manager of PA Dutch Hotels.

July is always a busy month for hotels in Lancaster County, Watts said. PA Dutch Hotels initially thought its facilities —  Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Suites in East Lampeter Township, and Clarion Inn in Strasburg Borough — might see a spike because of the tournament, he said, but that’s not happening.

“People decided to stay closer,” he said.

Eden Resort in Manheim Township is pretty close, but managing partner Stephen J. Sikking reported that the tournament’s impact has not been large.

“We have maybe got seven or eight rooms for the whole week for the tournament specifically,” he said.

That’s pretty much what Sikking expected. Tournament directors predicted, he said, that many attendees would be day-trippers, but that’s okay: “It’s in the summertime and we’re already busy.”

“The majority of the groups that we have are corporate groups that are either sponsoring portions of the Open or hosting different events in association with it,” said Lindsey Antonio, group sales manager at Cork Factory Hotel in Lancaster city.

They started making inquiries two years ago, shortly after Lancaster was announced as the Open destination. But, she said, while the hotel expected the week to be “very crazy,” it’s turning out to be “pretty manageable.”

The hotel wasn’t sold out as of Wednesday afternoon, but the demand was high enough to push up its room rates. The bar and restaurant were busy, Antonio said, but in general the tournament crowd is an easy one.

“Since most people are just staying in their rooms and going to the country club during the day, it hasn’t put a whole lot of pressure on the staff,” she said. “It’s actually a little calmer than, say, a wedding party.”

“Our business mostly depends on what we have going on internally,” said Mike Messina, director of the 135-room Warehouse Hotel that opened on Memorial Day Weekend inside Spooky Nook Sports in East Hempfield Township.

This week, basketball and field hockey tournaments are keeping the sports complex busy and consuming most of its rooms, Messina said, so “we didn’t have room to keep open for guests coming in for the Open.”

But, he added, when Spooky Nook events aren’t filling its rooms, the hotel has “been getting a decent amount of leisure business.”

“We’re close to capacity,” said Josh Nowak, director of sales and marketing at Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square in Lancaster city.

The Open certainly plays a role in that, he said, and room pricing is a little higher “consistent with other big events that come to Lancaster.”

“It kind of mirrors what we were anticipating,” said Joel Cliff, spokesman for Discover Lancaster, which promotes the county as a tourist destination. “There has been some uptick at some places. It really varies depending on the location of the hotels, their rates, their amenities.”

Open visitors will make their presence known in other areas of the economy as well, he said, but for hotels and the tourism industry, the tournament’s biggest benefits will likely be long-term.

All of the broadcasting showing Lancaster County “really should be quite beneficial,” he said. “Particularly in the Asian market.”

Japan has always been a pretty strong tourist market for Lancaster County, he said, and now China and Korea are becoming a special focus as well. And, he said, as many top female golf players hail from the continent, he expects the tournament to draw lots of television watchers from Asia.

By the numbers

Events like the U.S. Women’s Open are, at this point, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Lancaster area.

So developers have been working on attracting conventions to the Lancaster County Convention Center as a more regular boost to the tourism industry.

Studies have found that Lancaster city needs 800 hotel rooms within walking distance of the center to pull in more big-scale conventions.

Once all current plans and projects are completed, there will be about 670.

That doesn’t include hotel projects in progress elsewhere in the county, which include two more hotels under construction near Spooky Nook Sports.