HARLINGEN — The hotel room dam in the city is about to burst with the addition of 333 new rooms soon to be available for travelers.
The first of the three new hotels is the $4 million Homewood Suites by Hilton Harlingen at 603 Sesame Drive just off Ed Carey Drive. The 89-room extended stay facility opened in September, and on Thursday will celebrate a grand opening with catering and drinks, entertainment and a welcome to the public.
“It’s an extended stay property so all the rooms have kitchens, they have their own living room — it’s like an apartment really — and they’ll have dishes and pots and pans,” said Jaime Navarro, director of sales at the new Hilton property on Sesame Drive. “It’s meant for multiple months. Years at a time, it kind of just depends on the need.”
Just down the street will be the new Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, a 94-room hotel which is ready to begin construction. Over by the new Harlingen Convention Center, Hilton is in the process of building the Hilton Garden Inn, with 150 rooms.
Is there room for so many hotel rooms in the city?
“I would like to say yes, most definitely, there is a market,” Navarro said. “Being new to this area, I worked out of Brownsville and the McAllen area as well and on South Padre Island, this was one I was curious about and honestly I didn’t think there would be much production but I was very surprised.”
DeAvon Burnes is general manager of the new Hilton.
“There is a need in the market,” he said. “Our stays are typically Monday through Thursday, those are our busy days. The weekends are little bit slower. I think we’re meeting our demand in the market. I don’t think we’re at a point of saturation right now.
“Coming from College Station, in that market, you get to the point where there’s way too many hotels,” he added. “Do you have a need for it? There’s a need at certain times but on those shoulder months, that’s where it gets to the point where you ask, did we really overbuild or did we build enough?”
Shoulder months is a phrase used in the hospitality industry to describe a travel season between peak and off-peak seasons, when hotel rates tend to be relatively low. In Harlingen, the shoulder months are October through December.
Depending on the season, rates at the Homewood Suites Harlingen range from $109 to $119 to $129 per night.
The new Homewood Suites by Hilton Harlingen has four floors, an outdoor pool, a fitness center with free weights, strength machines, ellipticals and treadmills, and a ballroom/event center which for now is the largest of its kind at any hotel in the city.
The ballroom is just under 5,000 square feet, “which will split in half to a little under 2,500 feet per side,” Burnes said.
“It will be good for quinceanaras, for Sweet 16s, weddings, graduation parties and so forth, corporate Christmas parties,” he added.
Such a large available space also could play a role with any event overflow at the new Hilton Garden Inn at the convention center.
“It’s a Hilton property, so we’re all part of the Hilton family and we work together,” Navarro said. “This city has enough for everybody.”
So far Navarro and Burnes say the Homewood Suites has been relatively busy since its opening Sept. 20, catering to business travelers from a pretty diverse lineup of companies, industries and government agencies.
“The hospitals are very strong,” Navarro said. “We also have wind power companies, Panasonic as well. One of their manufacturing facilities is in Nuevo Progreso right across the border. So we get a lot of that, a lot of government entities like Homeland Security, military units that will come in, and Border Patrol.”
Navarro said the hotel’s board room, which can seat eight to 18 people, is popular with area law firms seeking to take depositions.
All of which, the managers say, is what sets their hotel apart in the Harlingen market.
“Definitely our event space and that we are an extended stay,” Navarro said. “There are limited extended stays that would be to this level, this caliber. There’s one other, which is the Marriott, and aside from that, that’s it. We are very unique to this area, and especially because we have that event space, that’s what really sets us apart.”
If you go
WHAT — Grand opening, Homewood Suites by Hilton Harlingen
WHEN — Thursday, 6 p.m.
WHERE — 603 Sesame Dr., off Ed Carey Drive
ACTIVITIES — Ribbon-cutting, food and beverages, business mixer
ENTERTAINMENT — Walt Anderson of Kool and the Gang
COST — Free