Optimism all around: Accommodation and Tourist associations excited for the future after latest hotel announcement

By Matt Nemeth
May 25, 2017 - 5:39pm Updated: May 26, 2017 - 12:06am


MEDICINE HAT, AB — If you build it, they will come.

That’s what Sun City Hotels’ research showed before they decided to be the latest group to get into the Medicine Hat hotel game, and partner Neil Ratol says the demand for new accommodations in the city was the driving force behind their decision.

“Except Hampton Inn, there was no property opened in the city in the last 10 years,” said Ratol over the phone from Regina Thursday.

Ratol is no stranger to the Gas City hotel landscape. The businessman owned the Ramada here from 2005-2011 before selling it to spend more time with his family. Now that his children are older, he says he can have more time to focus on the accommodation business.

“We’ve got a good opportunity,” said Ratol. “It’s a nice location, good land, plus we got a pretty nice franchise, one of the best — Best Western.”

With demand for new hotel accommodations fuelling Ratol and his company’s newest venture, Sun City Hotels joins two other recently announced accommodation properties in the city’s south end. A south end that’s seeing a $100 million construction boom according to Invest Medicine Hat’s recent mailout.

For Tourism Medicine Hat Executive Director Jace Anderson, having three new hotels opening in the near future is music to his ears.

“To see business investment of this sort that impacts travel and tourism, whether it’s leisure or business or sport tourism, to see that sort of investment in our community is very positive.”

But adding more than 300 rooms in the city’s south end — which already has five hotels close to one another — could be problematic. However, Medicine Hat Accommodation Association Executive Director Elisha Ammann contends her six members see it as more of an opportunity.

“I think that what we look forward to is the possibilities that will open for us,” she said inside the foyer of member hotel Medicine Hat Lodge. “Having more hotel rooms will enable the community to bid on larger events, and maybe bring in some large events that we haven’t had the opportunity to do before.”

Ammann says their association’s statistics show over the last decade the average occupancy rate in the city has stayed at “a normal level”.

“I know in the last couple of months it has been around 40 per cent, the occupancy, but we would see a little bit more of a peak in the summer and then a little bit of a decrease through the winter as well,” she said. “So I can’t really speak to what that average is.”

With two major events in the Special Olympics Summer Games and Little League Majors National Championship happening here this summer, occupancy may see an even bigger summer peak than usual.

“I think it’s an exciting time for our city,” says Ammann.

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