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Damian Humphreys walks around the Holiday Inn Express wound up like a clock that's waiting to chime the first hour of a new day.

That time arrives tomorrow, April 1, when the hostelry at 1441 E. Washington St., Sequim, welcomes its first guests.

A grand opening is planned for April 30. The Sequim Gazette will publish a special section about the Holiday Inn Express on April 7.

But even that date seemed far in the future for Humphreys on Monday as he led a tour of the $8.6 million hotel that's been in planning and under construction for 18 months.

Humphreys and his followers had to detour around a tile setter who was flooring the lobby, dodge cartons full of supplies and step gingerly over construction materials.

Diner will wait

But the tasks that remained didn't dampen Humphreys' excited optimism over the opening.

Fifty of the hotel's 77 rooms will be ready Thursday, he said, although a planned Black Bear Diner must wait for fresh financing, which will become available once the Holiday Inn Express fully opens.

Meanwhile, a staff of 18 people will be ready to greet and serve guests Thursday. Employment probably will grow to 25-30 people during the summer season.

Rooms that were ready for occupancy included special spaces that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Unlike many such rooms in other hotels, they include beds for caregivers.

Lessons learned

That often-overlooked touch is typical of the planning that's gone into the hotel owned by Bret Wirta's Wirta Hospitality Worldwide, Humphreys said.

Wirta also owns Sequim's Quality Inn & Suites, 134 River Road, where Humphreys said hotel personnel learned lessons to incorporate in the Holiday Inn Express.

They included:

_ More space between beds in rooms for families to give them more room.

_ Two-room business suites to accommodate travelers' small meetings.

_ A rooftop gazebo where visitors may take in the Olympic Mountains and much of eastern Clallam County, including a horse grazing next door.

_ A 300-yard outdoor walking path.

_ First-floor rooms with the same 11-foot-high ceilings required in meeting areas.

Humphreys said the resulting airiness pleases women travelers especially, having been told so by one regular guest at the Quality Inn & Suites.

'All about comfort'

"It's listening to what your guest wants," he said of his and Wirta's plans. "We're picking up the trinkets of what we learned there over four years.

"These extra few ideas make all the difference. It's all about comfort."

The trick is to lure guests to Sequim with amenities they'd expect at downtown Seattle hotels but at bargain prices.

A standard room at the Holiday Inn Express will cost $160 a night, Humphreys said, mid-range in the industry. The same room could cost up to $300 across Puget Sound.

'I market Sequim'

The result is "to make Sequim a destination that corporate clients might want to visit," he said.

And that means marketing more than just larger rooms with higher ceilings but advertising Sequim's spectacular surroundings and its small-town charm.

"You're getting the real Washington," Humphreys said.

"You're getting fresh air. You're getting an experience.

"I don't market the two hotels.

"I market Sequim."



Reach Jim Casey at jcasey@sequimgazette.com.



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