Entering tourism, an industry stifled by COVID-19, isn’t fazing a developer who is opening a Best Western Plus hotel in Clarkston this week.

The 84-room, three-story hotel got a certificate of occupancy Thursday, the last step it needed to complete before the city of Clarkston allows business to be conducted on the property, said Clarkston’s public works director, Kevin Poole.

Clarkston’s sunny, mild weather along with the accommodation’s proximity to excellent fishing and Hells Canyon should help it draw guests, said Tom Denlea, the governing member of the Clarkston Lodging Group.

“This area is unique,” Denlea said.

The addition of the Best Western Plus is one of two significant changes to the hotel scene in Clarkston this year. What used to be the Quality Inn got an interior and exterior remodel when it became a Holiday Inn over the summer.

At the Best Western Plus, the furniture has been moved in and most of the staff training for 20 to 30 full- and part-time employees is complete, Denlea said.

Clarkston Lodging Group also finished a 36-unit apartment complex on the south side of the hotel, with a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, he said.

“They’re taking tenant applications,” Poole said. “It’s badly needed housing that is affordable.”

Clarkston Lodging Group may invest even more in the community. It is considering putting in a chain restaurant on an empty lot on the east side of the hotel on Bridge Street, but hasn’t yet identified that tenant, Denlea said.

“This is kind of a tough time for restaurants,” he said. “Not too many are in expansion mode.”

A food truck court with water and power hookups for vendors, parking spaces, a covered outdoor seating area and restrooms for customers could be a short-term or permanent substitute.

“If it’s working well, I don’t see why I wouldn’t keep it going,” Denlea said.

As the Bestern Western Plus gets closer to its debut, the staff at the Holiday Inn is finding the shift to a different brand is improving the experience its guests are having, said general manager Danielle Conklin.

One customer, who was a regular before the coronavirus pandemic,, just stayed for the first time since the renovation.

“She was just (amazed) by getting to see all of the updates we had made since she had been here,” Conklin said.

One of the biggest was replacing the entire wireless internet system to provide consistent, high-speed service in each room, which makes it easier for business travelers to work and leisure travelers to stream movies, she said.

Besides the upgrades, she said, affiliating with the Holiday Inn brand made sense for a number of reasons.

The hotel has banquet facilities and a full-service restaurant on site. Those amenities are required for Holiday Inns, but are not mandatory for Quality Inns.

The Intercontinental Hotel group for Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn Expresses has significantly more members in its rewards group than the one for Quality Inns, Conklin said. Often corporate and government travelers base their decisions to stay on rewards programs, and their stays can be a lucrative source of revenue. They are more likely to be repeat visitors, who make periodic trips throughout the year, filling rooms in the middle of the week when leisure travelers are at home.

Going to the Holiday Inn brand was a strategic move by GV Hospitality Clarkston LLC, which acquired the hotel in 2015, Conklin said.

Aman Virk, of Portland, has the biggest ownership stake in GV Hospitality Clarkston. Virk and members of his family have stakes in companies that own about a dozen hotels in places such as Longview, Wash., Corvallis, Ore., Renton, Wash., and Great Falls, Mont.

Virk and his family have worked hard to help the hotel thrive and believe the Holiday Inn brand, with its emphasis on consistency, will attract more business, Conklin said.

“Every guest that is staying with us knows what to expect,” she said.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 553-8482.

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