No room at the inn
Municipal leaders in the Valley say lack of hotels leading to lost opportunities
Last summer, employees at the visitor information centre in Kentville often tried to find tourists a hotel room in the Annapolis Valley.
But they failed on multiple occasions, despite calling every hotel between Yarmouth and Truro.
It’s stories like this that have the towns of Kentville and Berwick looking at the viability of adding more accommodations to Kings County.
Berwick Mayor Don Clarke said the town commissioned a study in 2017, which said a branded, limited-service hotel would work in the town.
They hired a consultant to take the study to hotel chains or entrepreneurs to see if there was any interest in looking at the possibility.
“Rather than let the study sit on a shelf, we wanted to get it out to the industry,” Clarke said.
The consultant said there was some interest from people in the industry who could get involved, but they want to see what kind of local interest there would be in investing in a project.
“The town has stepped back now; it’s up to business and people in the hotel development industry to step forward and make a decision on whether or not it is a viable thing to do,” Clarke said. “I know there are a couple of groups interested.”
The closest hotels are 20 kilometres away in Kingston, and 25 kilometres in the opposite direction in New Minas. While the county has plenty of B&Bs and inns, there are only five hotels and motels, with one of those being seasonal.
“There aren’t a lot of new, modern properties in this area,” Clarke said.
The new multi-sport complex in the town is part of the impetus behind the study, Clarke said.
“We have the possibility of holding hockey tournaments and curling tournaments, and even the Lions Community centre has had the opportunity to rent to groups that want to come for several days and run an event,” he said. “But what often is mentioned as lacking is no places to stay in the area.”
In Kentville, the county’s largest town, there are sports tournaments throughout the year. But the town’s last motel converted to apartments last year; another was bought and bulldozed in 2017 to make way for a car dealership. In 2012, the Pine View Inn just outside the town was destroyed by fire, but the owners did not rebuild.
All that has left the town short on hotel rooms, and with only two bed and breakfasts, community and economic development coordinator Lindsay Young said.
“They are lovely, but they don’t have the capacity to meet the needs of our travelling public,” she said.
She said the town also conducted a study five years ago that found a project is viable, and that study could be updated now that the two motels have closed.
She said there is room for more than one hotel in the county based on the number of sports events, tournaments and community events that take place throughout the year.
“Definitely, the need for hotels and accommodations and room nights is up there on the priority list,” Young said.
She said not all hotels in the Valley are set up to take teams, according to feedback from some groups coming through.
“Those teams make up a large portion of the people travelling to our area,” she said, and they often end up staying in Windsor or Greenwood because the few hotels close by fill up quickly.
She said with so many reports last summer of trouble finding rooms anywhere between Yar- mouth and Truro, “I do think there are several partners that could be working together to solve the bigger regional issue of room nights, because it’s not an issue affecting only one municipality, it crosses municipal lines.”
She said the 2013 study done for the town is even more valid with the loss of the two motels in the past two years, and the town is open to accept any proposals for the area.
The study said the town could support an 80-room, branded hotel with conference amenities.
She said interest dropped off, but they’re still getting requests for the study.
Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Judy Rafuse said the group knows there will be a deficit of rooms as the number of visitors to the region grows, which has happened during the past five years.
Bed and breakfasts are popular accommodations, she said, but sports teams and families often want a different experience.
The ruins of the Pine View Inn in Coldbrook, which was destroyed by fire in 2012 and not rebuilt. Organizations in the Valley are having trouble organizing events because people coming from other areas have a hard time finding accommodations.