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Hotel owners see hole in market along I-81

March 01, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Randy Morral doesn't think occupancy rates tell the whole story when it comes to demand for new motels in Washington County.

Those rates don't factor in all the travelers on Interstate 81, who now drive past the county into Pennsylvania or West Virginia to stop for the night, said Morral, 31, who is hoping to capture some of that business with his new motel in Maugansville.

"We're missing the boat if we can't stop them," the Smithsburg resident told a group of local business people Tuesday morning at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's monthly Eggs & Issues breakfast.

Morral and his wife, Michele Morral, 31, own MorPep Hospitality, which is building a new 77-room Hampton Inn at Interstate 81 and Maugans Avenue.

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The motel - purposely conspicuous to interstate travelers - is set to open May 22, said Randy Morral, whose parents own a hotel and two restaurants in Breezewood, Pa.

Morral and his wife own a Golden Corral restaurant in Frederick, Md.

Morral said he and the Hampton Inn chain did extensive studies looking at all of Washington County before deciding on Maugans Avenue.

The studies showed a hole in the lodging market along Interstate 81, which has a high traffic flow and more travelers more likely to stop for a night than does Interstate 70, he said.

Morral said he expects about half of his motel's customers will be travelers on the interstate, captured before driving on to a neighboring state to get a room.

He said he thinks there's enough of that potential business for his Hampton Inn and the two other motels to be built along Interstate 81 in the next year.

Having another motel and more restaurants clustered at the Maugans Avenue exit will make that exit more attractive to people looking for a meal and some rest, Morral said.

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