Officials: More hotels offer new tourism opportunities

With the promise of new area hotels in the pipeline, the Frisco Convention and Visitors Bureau is biding its time until it can begin promoting new hotel locations to convention and meeting planners and continue expanding an already growing Frisco tourism sector.

Major development announcements made in the past few months include the promise of more hotel space, and a couple of hotel projects are already in the works.

"Even if it's three or four months down the road for a ground breaking, for us to be able to share that with meeting planners and publications that [hotels are] coming, it puts [possible convention locations] into the mind of the meeting planner," said CVB Executive Director Marla Roe.

The 103-room Hampton Inn & Suites-Dallas/Frisco North-Fieldhouse USA hotel is under construction on Sports Village Drive and is scheduled to be complete in December.

New rooms are also being added at the existing Sheraton Stonebriar Hotel near SH 121 and Legacy Drive. The building is undergoing a $10-million renovation to add 51 guest rooms for a total of 170 rooms as well as 5,000 square feet of meeting space and a resort-style pool. The expansion is scheduled to be complete in September.

Developers for the multiuse event center/Dallas Cowboys headquarters and the Wade Park multiuse development site, both off the Dallas North Tollway and in the beginning stages of grading and infrastructure work, have also put hotels in their plans.

Neither project has announced a specific hotel brand yet, Roe said.

Hotel demand

Roe said hotel space in Frisco is in demand, especially Monday through Thursday when business conventions typically take place. Frisco hotels are in the 80–90 percent occupancy range during the week, she said.

That demand, Roe said, includes a variety of hotel sizes with different room rates.

"It's not just hotel rooms—it's the right hotel rooms," Roe said. "You don't want just rooms. You want quality properties and a good balance. There is a need for limited-service [hotels], and there is a need for full-service [hotels]."

Businesses needing large meeting spaces are funneled primarily to the two full-service hotels—the Embassy Suites and the Westin Stonebriar Hotel, a resort-style hotel connected to a golf course, Roe said.

She said larger conventions make use of the convention center attached to the Embassy Suites.

That convention space, combined with the nearby Dr Pepper Arena, has also been a draw, Roe said.

Companywide sessions can be held in the larger arena, and attendees can then walk back across the street to the Embassy, have lunch and hold breakout sessions.

"I think when the new [Cowboys multiuse event center] opens, if they are able to have a hotel on that property, it will work very similarly" she said. "The hotel may end up having meeting space, but they could also use the event center, and they are right there within walking distance."

Tourism benefits

Tourism continues to be a large source of revenue for Frisco. In fiscal year 2013 visitors spent a total of $1.4 billion in Frisco, which generated $25.4 million in tax revenue and in turn supported 10,292 jobs and $261.3 million in payroll, according to CVB reports.

The hotel occupancy tax, or HOT tax, rate in Frisco is 13 percent, with 6 percent given to the state and 7 percent given to the city.

The HOT tax money primarily funds the operation of the CVB and also pays the debt service on the convention center connected to the Embassy Suites and a part of Dr Pepper Ballpark.

However, the biggest benefit of tourism to the city is not the HOT tax brought in but the sales tax money visitors leave behind when they dine and shop, Roe said.

"That's what [the CVB] is charged with doing—driving economic impact back into the community in a different way than the [Frisco Economic Development Corp.] does it," Roe said.

Ryan Callison, CVB public relations and marketing director said the impact of tourism is also important to Frisco in terms of community awareness.

"Everything goes hand in hand just for working with economic development," Callison said. "You never know at a sporting event or a convention who could be a CEO of a corporation or something like that. They fall in love with their trip here, and maybe they are interested in moving a whole company here based on quality of life. Tourism can even impact the economic development side."

Tony Felker, Frisco Chamber of Commerce president, echoed those sentiments, using the January 2014 NCAA football game in Frisco as an example.

"It was one game, and it brought in maybe 20,000 fans," he said. "It was a great weekend for all, but it was also an opportunity to put Frisco, Texas, on ESPN across the country. People hear about Frisco. That kind of word reinforces in people's mind to check things out."

Promoting Frisco

Felker said one of the most important ways to increase tourism is for local businesses to promote and sell Frisco to customers.

He said it is important for the business community to become educated about what is going on in Frisco and be able to share that information to visitors.

"Community pride helps sell what we have here," Felker said. "That's one of the things that has made us so successful, is that everybody in town has that pride."

Roe and Callison said the CVB will be launching new programs in the fall to create a broader awareness of what tourism does to sustain the city.

"You can book business and bring everything, have all the product you need, but if the service aspect isn't there—the hospitality—[tourists will] never come back," Callison said.