Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins isn’t changing his mind on the need for extra accommodations in town. “There has been a feasibility study done that indicates a second hotel in Grand Falls-Windsor would certainly not jeopardize the existing ones that we have here,” Hawkins said.
He was responding to a comment made during a speech at the Exploits Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 Exploits Business Excellence Awards and 13th annual business Hall of Fame induction ceremony two weeks ago.
In speaking about change, and the challenges Newfoundland and Labrador has in terms of business, the president of Steele Communications and Steele Hotels, John Steele, said he was brought back to a time when he was around 14 years old and his parents were in the hotel business in Gander.
“I remember my father saying to me, we were standing up in the hallway of the Albatross, and he said to me, ‘John, you’ll never have to worry, because this business is going to go very well and if you keep focused on it, you’ll do fine,’” Steele said.
“But that’s not true because things very much have changed. You look at Gander and we’re still in the hotel business in Gander, but it’s not the gold mine that it was because of technology. Planes now overfly Gander, and to run hotels in Gander now is very much a struggle.”
Steele didn’t mince words about the challenges that Steele Hotels has faced in running the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook, the Albatross Hotel, Sinbad’s Hotel and Suites and The Irving West and Hotel Gander in Gander and the Capital Hotel in St. John’s.
“I would advise everyone who thinks that Grand Falls-(Windsor) needs another hotel, I think you have one hotel here now that makes good money; I’m not saying that it doesn’t need reinvestment, however, I do believe that if you have another hotel in Grand Falls-Windsor you’ll end up with two properties not making any money. Or you’ll end up with one and another one going out of business, because the market is not that big. Trust me on that.”
Hawkins said he didn’t hear the comment first-hand as he had to step away from the ceremony before Steele took to the stage, and only heard rumblings of it as he was out of town for a week.
However, he said on Monday that the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor has been working hard on the possibility of getting another hotel in the community.
“I believe another hotel would certainly complement the Mount Peyton and certainly would bring even more business to Grand Falls-Windsor because this would give us an opportunity then to get out there and start aggressively going after some smaller conventions that would bring people in,” Hawkins said.
“I would consider that as a comment from a competitor, who would be concerned if, in fact, a hotel (were to come) Grand Falls-Windsor … that probably would be competition for him as well. You, I guess, consider the source when comments are made like that.”
Hawkins said the town has to go by the work the experts have done and what the feasibility studies have shown.
“And if there is a business person that feels that he can provide service and make a dollar, then that would be the decision of that particular developer to come in and put a hotel,” he said.
Hawkins said council is working closely with a developer.
“There’s nothing definite yet with regards to when there will be a start time for that, but again, that’s something the developer would be in a better position to comment on because of course it’s their business,” he said.
“We’re in the business of trying to work with these guys to enable any situation where we can help out without getting into the competitive nature because, obviously, we have to remain neutral on that because we have existing businesses already here.”
He said, the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium is designed for conventions and the like, and since money has been invested there, it’s important to build on that.
“Obviously we have to look at opportunities whereby we can utilize that facility,” Hawkins said.
“And one way of doing that is attracting mid-sized conventions to Grand Falls-Windsor.”