Hotel coming to east side

A new hotel and restaurant will go a long way in boosting tourism in Sequim, at least that is what backers of the new Holiday Inn Express and Suites are banking on.

"Our lenders recognize the beauty, strong economy, smart growth and potential to draw visitors to Sequim," said Bret Wirta, owner of Wirta Hospitality Worldwide and owner of the Holiday Inn Express, at last week's ground-breaking ceremony.

Wirta also owns the Quality Inn and Suites, which opened three years ago.

When the Holiday Inn Express opens its doors for business by this time next year, the two hotels will bookend Sequim, the Quality Inn on the west end and the Holiday Inn Express on the east end of town. "It will be nice to have a hotel presence on this end of town," said Sequim's mayor, Laura Dubois, who was one of several speakers at the Dec. 4 ground-breaking.

The city's newest hotel will be state-of-the-art, with a unique exterior design, a rooftop garden, pond and a 2,500-square-foot conference center.

It also will give Sequim 77 more hotel rooms, a much-needed commodity, according to Damian Humphreys, marketing manager for the Quality Inn.

"The history of tourism in

Sequim has been rather checkered," Humphreys said. "We wanted to give Sequim a hotel it could be proud of."

Travelers often have difficulty finding quality lodging in Sequim, especially during the summer season and events such as the Lavender Festival, Humphreys said.

"The additional rooms will ease the problem," he said.

The Holiday Inn Express and Suites will be managed by Nancy Schade, who has managed the Quality Inn since its opening. Schade recently was awarded the Choice Hotels Apex Award for customer service and management excellence.

"We've received two Apex Awards, one for the hotel for its eco-friendly footprint and the other for Nancy as general manager of the year," said Humphreys. "For us being so new and small competing with much larger hotels and locations, it's great to see the recognition of our quality."

The Holiday Inn Express has been in the works for nearly a year. Height variances as required by the Board of Adjustments and delays in finalizing the design of the hotel pushed the ground-breaking back a couple of months.

Now, however, construction is under way, even in the face of an economic downturn.

Wirta addressed that concern, as well.

"There is very little funding for hotel construction available out there," he said. "But our lenders recognize what we've seen in this community for a while - a quality destination."

Another perk will be the construction of a Black Bear Diner.

Humphreys said the hotel would team up with other members of the local tourism industry to offer guests packages for hiking, fishing, water sports

and other activities in and

around Sequim.

Wirta and his constituents will concentrate on making Sequim a destination rather than a city you drive through to get to Port Angeles or Port Townsend.

"Some of the tours used to say stop in Sequim and spend the night in Port Angeles," said Humphreys. "That's not the case anymore. Plus, we've been working on getting more groups and more tours to come this way and stop in Sequim."

Another goal is to lure more conference business, weddings and other large-hall activities from "across the pond," as Wirta described Seattle.

"Here's my message to Seattle," he told those at the ground-breaking ceremony. "If you've been paying too much for conferences in downtown Seattle, come to Sequim for a reduced cost and a great venue."

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