Former city council member and local businessperson Jenny Eklund addressed the Perry City Council Monday night and told them Perry needs more hotels.
“I have a problem,” Eklund said. “It’s a good problem, but I need some help and some direction and somebody to connect me. My problem that I am facing today is that our community doesn’t have enough hotel rooms.”
Eklund said an incident occurred Monday “that made me very headstrong about coming here” and speaking in the open-forum portion of the council’s regular twice-monthly meeting.
“We are bringing people in from all over the United States, and there’s no room in the inn,” she said. “This last weekend, we had two buses come up and picked the people up and drove them to Des Moines to a hotel.”
Eklund said she has scheduled several big events for the summer months and is already receiving emails from customers complaining about “no room in the inn.”
“Everything happening at La Poste is all out of town, and it’s all out of state,” Eklund said. “I love our hotel. We have to have our hotel. Our hotel is doing good. I know you’ll have some weekends when it’s quiet, other weekends when you don’t have enough, but right now the emails and conversations is: no room.”
The notion that Perry needs more hotels is “absolutely rubbish,” according to D. C. Patel, owner of the Super 8 motel at 701 26th St. in Perry. Patel said his occupancy rate last year was 50 percent, which is one of the facts and figures he regularly reports to travel agencies. He said he has occupancy data for the last five years as well as projections for the current year.
“I think there’s some other interest Jenny Eklund has because she is apparently not happy with Perry,” said Patel, who has owned the Super 8 since March 2015. “I think there’s really a motive other than the pure availability of the hotel rooms.” He did not speculate on the motive.
“We have rooms available at any point in time,” Patel said, “and we get sold out, completely sold out, only in the summer for a few days when there are events taking place, which is not different anywhere you go. When there are special events, then you sell out.”
Hotel Pattee owner Jay Hartz was also skeptical about Perry’s need for more hotel rooms.
“There’s some truth to that,” Hartz said of Eklund’s claim. “There are weekends when I’m full and I believe Super 8 is full. But my gut reaction is Perry cannot afford another hotel because you can’t have a hotel be successful just by filling on the weekends. You can fill on the weekends, but that’s only part of the solution. You need to fill room nights during the week. That’s the only way I’m going to become successful is if I fill rooms during the weekdays.”
Hartz said research on Perry’s lodging needs would be “worth an investigation, and I’m certainly willing to cooperate to help do some sort of feasibility study.” He said various factors would need to be calculated: the number of rooms, the kind of hotel, the location and others.
“Jenny is right in the fact that there’s a weekend in June when I’m sold out,” Hartz said. “She has a wedding. I have a wedding. Her group has 28 of my rooms, and my group has 12. The Super 8 is also full. It’s one of those things. It does happen. I just think it’s a slippery slope to think another hotel could be afforded in this community at this stage of the game. I wish I was turning people away all the time. That would be a good problem to have.”
Hartz said the Hotel Pattee’s occupancy rate last year was 55 percent. The industry average nationwide is about 70 percent, he said.
Eklund said she recalled “there was talk of a hotel coming to town” when she was on the city council, and she urged the council to explore the possibilities. She said she intends to speak with hotel developer Mike Whalen, president and CEO of Heart of America Group.
“I need help,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go.”