NEWPORT, Ky. -- Three new hotels in Newport and Covington are adding to what seems like a surge of hotel growth in and near Downtown in the last year, making the river cities an even better option for staying and exploring Greater Cincinnati.
Hotel Covington opened its doors and 114 rooms in October followed by the Hampton Inn & Suites with 122 rooms in Newport just this month. Starwood Aloft Hotel also will open in mid-January at Aqua on the Levee with 144 rooms.
They're competing with a growing surge of rooms Downtown, where nearly 3,500 rooms are now available, including new offerings by the Holiday Inn and Suites and by next summer Marriott's AC Hotel Cincinnati at The Banks.
It's a boost for Newport and Covington, which can now generate more revenue from events that are Downtown, such as Reds or Bengals games, festivals and concerts, that are within walking distance or a trolley ride across the river.
It makes the river cities more competitive with Downtown and should help increase nearby property values, said Eric Summe, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau. In Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, the three properties are the first new hotels in more than five years and will add to a current inventory of 6,500 rooms in all three counties.
Long term, the hotel growth is good for economic development, according to Summe.
"It gives us more to help market us (Northern Kentucky) as a destination," he said.
But when a lot of rooms are added in a short period of time on both sides of the river, it can have an impact on the rates, Summe said. Looking at the bigger picture, it's important to keep a "mix" of hotels in any area, meaning cities don't want the same kind of hotel property too close together.
Hotel Covington, for example, offers a boutique hotel experience and among other things is marketing itself for weddings and events, he said. Hampton Inn & Suites is a mix of business and leisure in a traditional hotel, and Aloft will be a contemporary structure that is the first of its kind in Northern Kentucky, he said. For Newport, it's a gain of about 100 rooms, said Tom Fromme, city manager.
"Over the years, we heard from many people that there were not enough quality hotel rooms in Newport, and they would stay in other areas, sometimes a significant distance from the Downtown region," Fromme said.
The Hampton Inn replaces the old Travelodge at the entrance to the Newport over the Taylor-Southgate Bridge.
With Aloft, the Hampton Inn and the existing Comfort Suites, Fromme said visitors "have great choices." He added that local restaurants and businesses will also benefit from the additional rooms.
In Covington, the Hotel Covington reused a historic building for a unique boutique experience, said Jack Olshan, general manager.
"People are still finding out about us (as a place to stay)," he said, noting that they've only been open for three months. "Once they are here, they are hooked."
He credits the community for embracing the hotel and its restaurant and bar. "People have been back time and time again," he said.
It's what Summe hopes will be the story at all the new hotels. "Hotel developers will look at many economic factors before they decide to build, and that's all positive," he said. Those 388 rooms equal 140,000 room-nights in a year, he said. "That's where it matters."