After a nearly 8-year process, Comfort Inn Suites has opened its doors in Dunnellon, Florida.
But its opening doesn’t add another luxury to the tiny town as much as it adds a necessity, said City Manager Eddie Esch.
“Before the hotel we always heard complaints about there not being anywhere to stay for the night,” Esch said.”Since the town has got more boat ramps and entrances to the river, the amount of people coming to the town has steadily increased and we wanted them to stay and enjoy it.”
The $5.7 million, three-story, 71-room new hotel, which opened on Feb. 25, boasts a multitude of features that the two current motels do not have. These include a complimentary breakfast, a 24-hour fitness center, a business center, access to a heated pool and boat, truck and trailer parking.
“We have a lot more amenities than the other smaller hotels do,” said the hotel’s revenue manager, Jackie Lambert. “But, we do not plan on being the only hotel in Dunnellon.”
Even with a list of luxuries, Doreen Cox doesn’t feel threatened.
Cox is the manager of one of the two long-lived motels in the small town, Two Rivers Inn.
“I don’t have a feeling one way or another about the hotel coming to town,” Cox said. “I just hope it’s able to bring more people to town and doesn’t hurt our business.”
Esch said he has experienced the hotel’s process from the very beginning to the grand opening.
“We’re wanting to keep this a small town and we’re not looking to turn it into a big-great city, ” Esch said. “But we are certainty looking to add things to our community for a reasonable and sustainable revenue sources, which obviously the hotel is something the community and the city are going to benefit from.”
The project began in 2007 and the land was going to be used for a different company. But shortly after, the recession began and plans changed, Lambert said.
“With the recession we need to take a step back, and now that the economy is coming back we decided to go with a different brand of hotels, one that we fit more with the area,” Lambert said. “This hotel is more family oriented and has more family oriented amenities.”
Over the past decade, Dunnellon has added a trail for visitors and multiple boat ramps and tubing entrances because of the increase of tourists stopping by the small town.
Lambert said that with the new hotel, hopefully people will choose to stay in Dunnellon instead of spending the day on the river then driving up to Ocala to spend their money there.
“Our goal is for people to stay in Dunnellon, which means they will shop at Dunnellon shops and eat at Dunnellon restaurants,” Lambert said. “We’re hoping to keep that business in Dunnellon.”
According to Lambert, the hotel has employed 25 to 30 people and is still hiring.
While Comfort Inn Suites may draw attraction because of its newer higher-end luxuries, Cox said she thinks Two Rivers Inn will attract visitors because of its low-price stay.
According to Lambert, Comfort Inn Suites’ rates are between $105 to $119 per room and Two Rivers Inn room rates are between $59.68 to $81.38, depending on single and double bed rooms, according to Cox.
Two Rivers Inn rooms feature a three-room layout – bedroom, bathroom and living area – which Cox said she thinks will attract people who are planning to stay more than just overnight.
Cox said she is confident that customers who have previously stayed at Two Rivers Inn will come back because of its silent location.
“We’re tucked back in a quiet part of town and I think that’s something some people are looking for,” Cox said. “But I wish them luck and I hope they are able to bring more people into town so that maybe the town can get up and grow.”