ENID — Good luck finding a hotel room in Enid, especially during the workweek.
Rooms aren't as tight as they were a year ago — 88-room Springhill Suites opened in June 2012 — but Smith Travel Research Inc. shows the running 12-month average occupancy at 74.3 percent, high enough to make finding a room a challenge.
Rooms may be tighter now than in a year, thanks to a new 131-Hilton Garden Inn destined for downtown, attached to the new Enid Event Center.
Turning the historic Broadway Tower downtown into a boutique hotel — also in the works — will further alleviate the shortage.
In the meantime, good luck.
Not just oil and gas
It's not just energy and construction traffic — although a lot of it is energy and construction traffic. You can tell by the company trucks in hotel and motel parking lots, and barreling along U.S. and state highways and county roads across northwest Oklahoma.
“There's just a lot of stuff going on in Enid,” said Marcy Jarrett, executive director of Visit Enid, the city's tourism center. “We've got layers, with corporate, medical, construction, and then just the traveling public coming through here. There's a lot of activity in Enid, and has been for several years.”
Enid's hotel market, however, is still catching up from the 1980s oil bust.
After Best Western Inn and its 98 rooms in 1983, there wasn't a new hotel in town for 15 years, when the 60-room hotel now known as Baymont came along in June 1998.
Another hotel opened in 1999. The most recent one before last year was a 78-room Hampton Inn Suites in 2010, and before that was Holiday Inn Express & Suites in 2005.
Others are more dated: 38 rooms in 1982; 69 rooms in 1980; 54 rooms in 1974; 123 rooms in 1971; 72 rooms in 1970; 85 rooms in 1963; 26 rooms in 1956.
In all, Enid, population about 50,000, has 13 hotels and motels with 891 rooms, according to Smith Travel Research.
More rooms needed
With the economy humming — the unemployment in Enid as well as Garfield County as a whole was 3.6 percent in July — that's not enough, Jarrett said, especially with a tight housing market turning would-be renters into hotel guests.
“We've got long-term people staying in hotels that might not want to stay in a hotel, that would prefer to be in a rental house,” she said.
Sustained high demand for hotels reaches into the countryside around Enid, which is 90 miles north of Oklahoma City, about 30 miles west of Interstate 35.
New Hennessey hotel
In Hennessey, 20 miles to the south, a new 50-room Sleep Inn & Suites had its grand opening just Friday. The three-story, 30,000-square-foot hotel automatically became the biggest building in the town of 2,156.
General manager Larry G. Lovely II said owner Saqib Anwar of Enid, who formerly owned and operated convenience stores in Enid, Waukomis and Newcastle, had been looking to do something else for some time before responding to the increased demand for hotel rooms. Rates are competitive with rooms in Enid, starting at $109 per night.
Lovely said the Hennessey Sleep Inn & Suites will draw some overflow from Enid once it's better known.
Rates are on the rise, Lovely said. The federal government's per-day allowance for travelers on government business is $77 per night now in Hennessey, set to go to $83 next month, and the current allowance for hotels in Enid, $87 per night, will rise to $103, he said.
Even Jet, OK, is full
In Jet, 35 miles northwest of Enid, the Sand Plains Motel is booked for the foreseeable future, said Donna Keller, who owns and operates the 10-room motel with her husband, Mike, in the community of 214.
She said guests are virtually all oil-and-gas or construction crews, including an electric construction crew from Alabama that has rented a block of rooms for three years as it works in the region for Alfalfa Electric Cooperative in nearby Cherokee. The electric construction company, she said, has even bought houses in the Jet and Nash areas to house crews.
Oklahoma hunters are out of luck for rooms this year, she said, which saddens her. Also left looking are women from across the country who come to Jet annually for the three-day Four Corners Quilting Retreat. Keller said regular attendees can't find rooms anywhere for the event, which is in October.
Keller said the boom started in earnest in 2011. But rather than raise rates to meet the market — as an energy company guest suggested since “the companies are paying” — they remain at $56.25 per night at the Salt Plains Motel, which she said was built “60 or 70” years ago.
No, she said, remembering that “before all this happened, we had the hunters and the quilters,” and it wouldn't seem right to price them out, even though they can't get rooms now because of the rush.
Enid: hotel hub
Back in Enid, Jarrett said demand for rooms is sustained and rooms will be hard to find, especially during the workweek, until new motels and hotels are built. And it's not just because of the energy and energy-related commercial construction boom, she said.
“We've got two major medical facilities that pull people from a couple of hours away. You know, if a family member has a heart attack or needs special treatment, this will be the place you'll bring them, and you'll come with them,” Jarrett said. “And if you're some kind of a sales rep, you'll need a place to stay and do your business in the northwestern part of the state, and so we're available for that.
“And we've got people just traveling through here, heading out to go skiing or heading to go shopping. We're the medical-retail-entertainment hub for not just northwest Oklahoma but on into southwest Kansas.”