Hotel study needed in Bennington
Townies keep trotting out the tired notion that we're "putting the cart before the horse" when it comes to building a downtown hotel. Except they refuse to look at the horse, which is tourism. It's the strongest horse we have. But Bennington's horse has for years been standing there waiting to go.
What we need now is the cart, which is a place for folks to stop and stay overnight in downtown.
Data shows that 29 percent of Vermont tourists stay in commercial lodging, which accounts for 476 million dollars a year. That's a lot of horse feed.
Local innkeepers who tap into that 476 million dollars want to build a wall to keep new innkeepers away from the lucrative stream because they assume a downtown hotel would not create more visitors, only take from existing ones, and yet they offer no proof.
A downtown hotel and convention center would create NEW visitors. Visitors could walk and eat and drink without killing someone by having to drive afterward. Having a downtown hotel and convention center would also encourage new shops and new hours, and create jobs. They would build each other up at the same time to create a vibrant and robust downtown, thus making it a destination for tourists and Townies.
While Route 279 has diverted traffic from the downtown, recent data shows that 5 million vehicles pass through the four corners every year.
We also know that Bennington's room receipts show sustained growth since 2009 while the 4 Chimneys Inn just had a buyer and the Best Western sold last month for $3.6 million. We also have at least two studies supporting the need for a downtown hotel.
Bennington's tourism horse is ready to race. A Town-funded study will show us if it can handle the cart.
— Joey Kulkin Bennington