The Providence Group LLC, headquartered in Duxbury, MA, is afull-service hotel management and consulting company. Providencepresident Jed Heller tells that the upside in newmanagement for the right properties is modern efficiencies largethird-party management companies can provide. Providence alsoprovides construction management for renovations to repositionproperties where it has management contracts. Heller says he is"focusing solely on small to mid-sized hotel managementopportunities." An example is the 70-room Sanhurst Hotel in FortPierce, FL, flagged as a Holiday Express. It was ranked fifth outof seven hotels in RevPar for 2006 in its market. EOY 2007 showsthe hotel's RevPar rise from 43% to $55%, while reducing costs andspending, and came in number one in occupancy and RevPar in '07 inthe Fort Pierce area.

Privately held Merrill Group of Cos. LLC of Las Vegas isbuilding a 109-room, four-story hotel suites in Vernal, UT, to open3Q 2009. It's the same area where Merrill has just opened a largeLowe's Home Improvement-anchored shopping center."We stumbled byVernal by accident,'' says Carol Dvorak, director of projectmanagement for Merrill. "We went there to build the shopping centerand couldn't get a room and had to stay 20 miles away….We did astudy and found the market needed another hotel. We closed on theland and (we) are now building. Merrill is bullish in this sector.People need to travel in all markets and you have to check out yoursmall-town markets.''It's these emerging markets that many areeyeing for limited-service products. Vernal is 175 miles east ofSalt Lake City and is an emerging tourism destination, with whatMerrill says is in need of growth in retail, restaurants andhotels.

Portsmouth, NH-based Lodging Econometrics recently predictedthat hotels with 200 rooms or less, with top brands being done bywell-established developers, "will be the most attractive tofinance during the current turmoil, either (by) local institutionsor a declining number of national lenders." Most agree, but evenMerrill, with a non-hospitality portfolio of six million sf inshopping centers and retirement communities and dozens of hotels,says financing for small hotels isn't as easy as some punditspredict."We're finding it hard to finance, period…I think everyoneis very concerned about the whole loan market,'' particularly withreports that the debt crisis is now spilling into retail and otherreal estate sectors, he says.

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