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8/10/2014 6:00:00 AM
There's still room at the inns
Kingman motels, hotels report vacancies days before start of festival
Sunil Patel, who manages six Kingman motels, stands in a social area in the Hampton Inn and Suites Friday morning. He predicts Kingman’s 30 motels/hotels will be sold out during the International Route 66 Festival that starts Thursday.
Sunil Patel, who manages six Kingman motels, stands in a social area in the Hampton Inn and Suites Friday morning. He predicts Kingman’s 30 motels/hotels will be sold out during the International Route 66 Festival that starts Thursday.
Hubble Ray Smith
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - It looks like most of the motels in Kingman will keep their "Vacancy" light on for next weekend's International Route 66 Festival that's expected to draw 3,000 to 5,000 visitors from around the world.

Several motel managers and front desk clerks reported blocks of rooms still available a week before the festival at rates no different than any other night.

You can get into the Ramada Inn for $80, Comfort Inn for $90 and Hampton Inn for $140, with discounts for AAA Auto Club members and seniors. On a smaller budget, Arizona Inn and Hill Top Motel have rooms for $50, Ramblin' Rose for $60 and Travelodge for $60 single and $70 double.

Motels such as the Hill Top with just 25 rooms will probably sell out by Thursday, the first day of the festival.

A reservationist for Best Western said the 100-room Wayfarer's Inn is booked for Friday and Saturday, with limited availability on Thursday. Best Western Kings Inn has rooms with two queen beds for $110 a night.

El Trovatore, built in 1939 and renovated by new owners Sam and Monica Frisher with 50s-themed motel rooms, is completely booked for the festival.

Sunil Patel, who manages six Kingman motels totaling almost 500 rooms, isn't worried about attendance projections going flat and the possibility that most of the people at the festival will be Kingman residents.

Occupancy at his 75-room Holiday Inn Express and 73-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott consistently runs around 90 percent, he said. Room rates at his premier property, the 86-unit Hampton Inn and Suites, are holding steady at $159 for a suite and $139 for a standard room.

"I just continue holding on to my rates because they expect 3,000 to 5,000," the motel manager said in the Hampton Inn lobby. "I'm just holding on, not lowering my rates. I think people will take it in the end. Even if half go to Laughlin, this town should be sold out."

Kingman has more than 30 motels with about 1,700 rooms, most of them in the budget and moderate price range.

International Route 66 Festival organizers talk about the event like it's the biggest thing to happen to Kingman since the railroad came to town. The city even tried to establish a "quiet zone" to silence or minimize the trains' blaring whistle during the festival.

"One of the things it's done is create a sense of community," festival director Dora Manley told The Daily Miner. "It used to be hard to get things done and now the city wants to know, 'How do we do that?'"

Gary Jeppson, director of Development Services for Kingman and liaison for the Tourism Development Commission, said room tax revenue this month could top the previous high mark of $40,145 in June 2007. Last August it was over $37,500.

It's tricky, though, because room tax revenue reflects when the money was received and not necessarily when the guest stayed in the room, Jeppson explained. Subsequent months could show greater occupancy than what actually occurred, and the previous month's occupancy would be skewed lower.

Room tax revenue for fiscal year 2014 through June was $380,786, an increase of $31,526, or 6.9 percent, from fiscal year 2013. During the past 10 years, only 2008 and 2011 surpassed this year's collections.

Jeppson anticipates the International Route 66 Festival to be the biggest tourism event in Kingman's history. "We are excited for this event and for all who are making it possible," he said.

Patel said he hears attendance projections from the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce, but nobody knows for sure how many people will come.

He monitors reservations at his motels every day and adjusts room rates accordingly. Not only the festival crowd, but tourists and travelers coming down Interstate 40 will buoy his business.

"This is the first time, so we have no past history, so we don't know," he said about attendance. "It won't be a total flop, a no-show. There would be no reservations."

New Zealander Sam Murray believes in the economic viability of Route 66 motel businesses. He made a few trips down the highway and came to Arizona a year ago to buy a 1966 Oldsmobile at an estate sale in Truxton.

"(The car) was for sale by a family member whose grandmother had passed away some months earlier." Murray said. "It turned out it was the family of Mildred Barker, longtime owner of the Frontier Motel, and I learned that too was for sale. Long story short, I intended to buy the car and they sold me an old Route 66 motel too."

A tour operator in New Zealand, Murray said he loved Seligman and Kingman the first time he visited and he brings people from Down Under to explore the area.

"Kingman doesn't need to be a carnival or a tacky Route 66 gift shop," he said. "It should, however, try to use its history, its location and the old town to its advantage. Beale Street should be thriving."

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