Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 5, 2012

Busy with Bowl Goers

Hotels fill, but not like with Vets’ reunion

By Dan Human
Business writer

— Hotel bookings have not been record-breaking this weekend in Kokomo, but the Super Bowl made for a much more lucrative few days than normal.

About three quarters of the hotel rooms in Howard County by the middle of last week had reservations for this weekend, said Sherry Matlock, visitor information specialist for the Kokomo Visitors Bureau.

Calls started coming in more frequently after football fans learned the New England Patriots and New York Giants would play today.

Still, the hotel reservations don’t compare to the area’s busiest weekend every year, the Vietnam Veterans Reunion, which draws thousands of people to Howard County every September.

“We definitely have a complete sell-out weekend,” Matlock said about the annual reunion. “That’s always a weekend where our hotels book up and we start sending people to other areas.”

But the business this weekend is much appreciated, considering the usual lack of it the first weekend of February, said Lisa Dean, general manager for Fairfield Inn Kokomo.

The hotel, as of Wednesday, was booked for Saturday and today, with about half the rooms available Friday.

Reservations came and went a few weeks ago.

Green Bay Packers fans in January began booking rooms weeks ahead of the Super Bowl, believing their team, which went 15-1 in the NFL’s regular season, would play tonight. But after the Packers lost to the Giants in the division playoffs, reservations at the hotel were canceled, Dean said.

The hotel was one of several in the area that participated in Super Service training, which the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee offered around Indianapolis.

The program taught consistent behaviors, such as saying “Have a super day” to all guests, and stressed the importance of knowing about local and state history. Part of the lessons covered the importance of simple, basic enthusiasm.

“I think the staff is excited. I’m going to make it fun for them,” Dean said. The hotel scheduled twice as many staff as normal in February to work this weekend. “My staff are really wanting the hours.”

Room rates have been a key selling point for Kokomo.

Most hotels in the city are charging between $100 and $200 per night. It has been a major cost cutter for visitors who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollar more on rooms in Indianapolis.

Kyle Anderson, clinical assistant professor of business economics for Indiana University, said in a January interview the direct economic impact the Super Bowl would have on central Indiana should be between $100 million and $200 million.

The Super Bowl host committee has estimated the economic impact could be as much as $400 million.

“Obviously, the overwhelming majority is very kind of central to not only Indianapolis, but just the downtown area,” Anderson said.

• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomotribune.com.