Inauguration takes all room at area inns

November 19, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

TRI-STATE -- More than 70 miles away from Washington, D.C., Washington County's lodging is booked solid around the Jan. 20, 2009, presidential inauguration.

Individuals and bus tour groups from hundreds of miles away are snapping up many of the county's motel rooms for that time period.

As rooms in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area fill up, the inauguration is having a ripple effect from the District.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that D.C. and federal officials are preparing for up to 4 million people, more than the Mall has ever had.

As of Wednesday, it still was possible to get a room in or around D.C., but only for multiple nights, according to Destination DC, a nonprofit convention and tourism organization.


Many groups seeking accommodations for Jan. 19, the night before the inauguration, have turned to Hagerstown, Martinsburg, W.Va., and other areas within a one- to two-hour drive.

"We sold out the day after the election," said Patrick Rinard, the general manager of the 99-room Hampton Inn in Martinsburg.

The 144-room Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Hagerstown is full for both Jan. 18 and 19, said co-owner Lata Milner, the director of sales and marketing.

She and her husband moved to the United States from Australia last year.

"An election is good for business. We should be having more of them," she joked.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau is promoting two tour package ideas. Both are five days and four nights and include local attractions such as Antietam National Battlefield, Prime Outlets at Hagerstown and C&O Canal National Historical Park.

One advertisement in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer newspaper is for a three-day inauguration bus trip with lodging at the Hagerstown Hotel and Convention Center, formerly known as the Four Points Sheraton, on Dual Highway.

With visitors spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the county, "this is quite a significant event in the hospitality industry," Thomas B. Riford, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau's president and CEO, said in a voice-mail message.

Riford said groups from Cleveland, Pittsburgh and upstate New York will be among those staying in Washington County, which has about 2,400 motel, hotel and bed-and-breakfast rooms.

Milner said the Clarion has received requests for reservations from as far away as Detroit and Florida.

Two groups with reservations at the Hampton Inn in Martinsburg are from Michigan and Illinois, Rinard said. Someone from Hawaii wanted two rooms, but none were available, he said.

The Holiday Inn in Martinsburg also will have bus groups from Michigan and Illinois, said Sandie Ridenour, the director of sales. The 120-room hotel is sold out Jan. 18 through 20.

Guests at the Holiday Inn Express in Halfway are coming from Ohio, Vermont, Tennessee and Kentucky, said Sharon Smith, the sales director.

Almost every room is taken from Jan. 17 through 20.

The first call for reservations came in the day before the election. The next three days, "we just stayed on the phones all day long," Smith said. "It was a zoo ... It's absolutely phenomenal. I've never seen anything like it."

All five bedrooms at The Cascade Inn, a Cascade bed and breakfast, are booked for Jan. 18, 19 and 20, innkeeper Duane Musgrove said.

A big family is coming from Alabama and inquiries have come from Oregon and California, he said.

Musgrove called the inauguration "a real gift" for the business.

So what happens when there's no place to stay in Washington County?

Riford said the Convention & Visitors Bureau has suggested Chambersburg, Pa., and Cumberland, Md., as nearby alternatives.

Christopher Frisby of the Franklin County (Pa.) Visitors Bureau said Tuesday that he knows of four hotels in Chambersburg and one in Greencastle full for the inauguration period.

Hotels in Allegany County, Md. -- twice as far from Washington, D.C., as Hagerstown -- are filling up, too, the Cumberland Times-News reported Tuesday.

Destination DC, a nonprofit convention and tourism organization, has posted the following questions and answers about the Jan. 20, 2009, presidential inauguration.

Q: How do I get a ticket to the inauguration?

A: U.S. senators and representatives will distribute tickets to the swearing-in ceremony in January. In the past, the National Park Service has set up large screens on and around the National Mall for those without tickets.

Q: How can I get a ticket to the parade?

A: The parade will be on Pennsylvania Avenue, starting at the Capitol and ending at the White House. Major donors and supporters usually fill the bleacher seats. The public can stand along the parade route.

Q: How can I get a ticket to the inaugural ball?

A: The Presidential Inaugural Committee organizes the official balls. Tickets are difficult for the public to get. However, the public can get tickets to state society balls and smaller events.

The full list of questions and answers is posted at Destination DC's Web site, Click on "Inauguration Update."

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