CONWAY — There are some people in Conway who believe the downtown is ripe for a hotel of its own, but the owner of a bed and breakfast at the Conway Marina thinks maybe not.
I dont mind the competition, said George Bullock, co-owner of the four-star Cypress Inn. But Conway just isnt a big destination for vacationers.
Bullock said theres a lot of business activity and business travelers in Conway, but he doesnt believe theres enough to support a hotel.
Conway Mayor Alys Lawson said, on the other hand, there are people who think a hotel would be a wonderful addition to the growing visitor offerings in the riverfront town and thats the reason the city is funding a hotel feasibility study as part of a bigger look at the downtown area.
The study would tell us how many rooms our community can support, she said.
She and others said its not just businesspeople and tourists who would rent the hotels rooms, but there likely is business from parents of students at Coastal Carolina University as well as those who want to stay in Conway to kayak or fish the Waccamaw River.
We dont have anything in Conway that would be a nice Hampton Inn, you know, suites, said Larry Biddle, president of The Burroughs Co., likely the largest landowner in downtown Conway.
Biddle said that he has relatives from San Diego who recently motored their 46-foot boat up the Waccamaw and spent three days in Conway.
Theyre loving it, he said of their visit.
Lawson said she believes the city, the Conway Chamber of Commerce and Conway Downtown Alive could market the idea to prospective developers if the study sees value in a downtown hotel. Biddle suggested that a CCU MBA student could do a marketing plan as a class project.
Biddle said he envisions a hotel of 50 to 100 rooms while Bullock said a hotel would need 30 rooms to 40 rooms to make a go of it. Biddle said The Burroughs Co. has three locations right downtown where such a place could be built.
Biddle said his company spoke a few years ago with Burroughs & Chapin about taking on a hotel development in Conway. They were positive about the idea, Biddle said, and then the economy went bad.
Hillary Howard, executive director of Downtown Alive, said the citys visitor center probably gets five inquiries a week from people who are looking for accommodations that are not at the beach. She thinks some day trippers would spend a night in Conway if there were rooms downtown, a sentiment thats shared by Lawson.
Whatever the size, Howard said, It has to have charm.
I think if we had rooms available, then more people would think of the idea of spending the night, Lawson said.
But there already are rooms, Bullock said, and theyre not all rented every night.
Like many businesses, Bullock said The Cypress Inn is seeing fewer customers since the economic downturn. The weekends are pretty good, he said, but even discounting rates during the week to compete with other accommodations for business travelers still doesnt fill all the rooms all the time.
But he also acknowledges that typical guests at The Cypress Inn are different from the typical hotel customers.
He thinks it will be a while before downtown can support a hotel, and Biddle agreed its construction isnt something that is likely to happen soon.
Were not going to start building it tomorrow, Biddle said. But I think we ought to be on some radar screens should a hotelier or developer come looking for a location.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.