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Room Boom in Traverse City

By Kathy Gibbons

CREDIT Traverse City Tourism

When Trevor Tkach was named president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism in 2016, the board that hired him made a prediction.

“I was told that I’d better start building up demand because there will be more rooms in the next 10 years,” he says. More than six years into his role, Tkach is seeing that come true. A half-dozen hotels are in various stages of planning and construction around this northern Lower Michigan tourist destination.

Collectively, they will add about 550 rooms. The projects featured in this expansion include Tru by Hilton, which, with 90 rooms, is accepting reservations starting in February; Avid Hotel with 92 rooms; a 123-room Residence Inn by Marriott; a 122-room Staybridge Suites by IHG; a 90-room Marriott next to the Hotel Indigo Traverse City; and a locally owned 32-room water-front property called the Alexandra Inn.

The additional rooms are likely to fill during the summer, Tkach says. That’s when the area is flooded with visitors who come to enjoy the area’s beaches, wineries, breweries, eclectic small towns, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, among other sites. Occupancy in July and August can exceed 83% as compared to 41% in January 2022. The region is also a big destination for conferences, weddings, and reunions.

The influx of rooms doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in space for meetings, though it does offer more lodging options for those attending them. “To my understanding, the hotels being built— probably none of them are full service,” Tkach says. “We won’t have more opportunity to host more meetings, but to accom- modate more people in the venues we have.” Staffing the new properties might also be a challenge. “We’re already dealing with staffing issues in northern [Lower Peninsula] Michigan,” Tkach says. “I suspect this will add to those challenges.

“However, I think a lot of creative solutions are happening, especially in hospitality, to try and curb some of those.” Besides, he notes, big corporations’ willingness to invest in Traverse City says a lot. “I don’t think Hilton or Marriott take on things that aren’t projected to be successful,” he says. “I’m sure they’re reading the tea leaves telling them this market is strong and will continue to be strong for many years.”