Bill Blackwell, construction superintendent for Hughes General Contractors of North Salt Lake, checks the plans for the new breakfast area to be built at Best Western Greenwell. Crews set forms for the footers and to pour concrete later in the afternoon. [Photo by Tom Haraden/ Moab Sun News]

Now that the tourist season over, many of Moab’s hotels have begun renovations and the construction of additional units and facilities. Though the off-season is the natural time for tourist-dependent businesses to make such improvements, there is even more construction this winter than usual.

“Since we are a tourist economy this is the best time to do this. Everyone wants to be open by Jeep Safari,” said Jeff Whitney, the Grand County building inspector.

Hotel’s improvement schedules move in cycles that tend to either be longer or shorter depending on the capital available, said Steve Wang, the managing director of Quintstar, a firm that manages several of Moab’s largest hotels.

“We switch out soft goods (mattresses, sheets, decorations, etc.) about every five years, and make the larger tactile improvements every ten years,” he said.

Wang believes that it is likely that many hotels’ cycling schedules happened to coincide this year. The swelling demand for accommodation has also been a major motivation.

The Holiday Inn Express, Best Western Greenwell, and Aarchway Inn are all renovating their facilities. Four over-night rental properties are also being built this winter as well.

The Holiday Inn Express, which opened in July of 2003 and now has 79 rooms, is beginning a two-year project, which will include the renovation of its first-floor facilities and the addition of 40 new rooms and parking spaces.

The construction will add another 22,814-square-feet to current 42,202-square-foot building. The renovations had to be pushed back a month due to the large number of late-season tourists.

The first-floor renovations and expansions of the breakfast area, business center and fitness center are scheduled to be completed by the coming spring. The renovations of the existing rooms and the construction of new units will follow.

“We are not going to close. It will be business as usual, you will just have to pardon our dust,” said Bill Bly, Holiday Inn Express’ general manager.

The Best Western Greenwell will be making similar renovations, including doubling the size of their lobby and meeting room, as well as adding an elevator. The exterior of the building will also get a facelift.

“Best Western is the world’s largest hotel chain, so we have quite a global customer chain,” said Wang. “They expect more from us, so we are adding more amenities.”

Zion Hospitality Management Services, the group that runs the Aarchway Inn, is now building a Fairfield Inn north of town on Hwy. 191. It will be Moab’s first Marriot property. This new building’s three-floors will cover 270,000-square-feet and house 90 rooms. Originally to be built in 2011, the Fairfield Inn was delayed due to issues with water and sewage permits.

In addition to the construction of the Fairfield Inn, Zion is also renovating the Aarchway Inn. The additions will include a breakfast area and a new elevator.

The Fairfield Inn is not the only addition to the ranks of Moab’s hotels.

A new, up-scale property called Robbers Roost is being built just off Main and Center Streets. These new accommodations are being built by local general contractor Ben Byrd Construction. The first two floors will have a total of four two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot suites. The top floor will house the three-bedroom penthouse. The Roost is rushing to have everything ready to go by Jeep Safari in late March 2013.

The Inn at Moab – a new 80-unit hotel – is also in the works for the lot across from the Rim Cyclery. However, parking issues with the city has delayed construction.

The Gonzo Inn is working on a higher-end property next door to their existing hotel as well. Creekside at Moab, a bed and breakfast across from the Virginian Motel, is also renovating their property.

The growth of Moab’s hospitality industry reflects the continued increase of tourists to Grand County. The fact that Arches National Park had the most visitors it has ever had last year is evidence of this.

“Moab businesses have been looking at the incremental successes that we have been having the last few years and are looking for areas to expand,” said Ken Davey, the City of Moab’s administrative analyst/economic development specialist.

The growth in the number of tourists coming to Moab, as well as the tourist season, has been accompanied by an increased interest in luxury accommodation, Whitney said. Whitney has noticed a rising number of people staying up-river, at the Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge and at Sorrell River Ranch. He believes that this rise in affluent travelers is one of the primary reasons that Moab is seeing the construction of three high-end rental properties this winter.

“The renovations will keep coming because it helps us keep up with the service quality offered by Moab’s other businesses,” Wang said.

But both Wang and Davey see the increase in pricier accommodation as a further diversifying of, rather than a general shift, in Moab’s hospitality sector. Though room rates have risen in recent years, Moab will still have plenty of budget accommodations for the foreseeable future.

This rise in room rates is in large part due to increasing demand.

“Some of the people that come to our big events still have to get accommodation in Monticello and Green River,” Whitney said.

While the addition of these 230 rooms may not drive prices down, it will allow more people to stay in town and thus bring more money to other local businesses.

The additional jobs and tax revenue of these renovations and new hotels will also boost Moab’s economy, as will the work associated with the construction and renovations. The Holiday Inn Express alone will add 20 additional employees for housekeeping, maintenance and laundry, Bly said.

The goal of any expansion in Grand County’s tourism industry is to get more people coming in and keep people coming back, and that means adapting, said Wang.

“As Moab continues to evolve we need to grow with the people who are, and will be, coming to Moab. As a destination we need to keep up with the services that other areas compete with us for,” he said.