Arlington economic development officials say the county will experience a hotel and motel building boom this year as the industry rushes to accommodate business travelers drawn by new office buildings in Rosslyn, Pentagon City and Crystal City.
"Tenants in these new buildings are generally wealthy private industries, and there is a tremendous demand for appropriate hotel space in turn," said Diana Wahl, director of marketing for Arlington. "New hotels are coming in . . .and smaller, older hotels are upgrading and expanding."
Approximately 700 new hotel rooms are now under construction in Arlington and the county has already approved plans for another 3,000. Developers of four more projects have recently requested the county planning commission to approve plans for yet another 700 rooms.
"There is a market for hotel rooms out there, but some analysts would say they are going to overbuild," said Wahl. "Others would say there is still a need."
Charles Luria, owner and operator of the Quality Inn at Pentagon City, admits there is a lot of new hotel space going up in Arlington. But he said a 250-room addition to his hotel, to be completed in November, will give him a leg up on the compitition.
"You can either stop and let others take more of the market, or you can be competitive and jump in," said Luria. He said the new addition to the hotel will cater to a business clientele, featuring seven new conference rooms, mini-suites and handball courts.
"There's a lot of business in these office buildings," said Luria. "That is the market we plan to tap."
The Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City is also planning to court the business market with a 250-room addition which has been approved by the county but is not yet under construction. A spokesman for the company said Marriott is "looking to attract frequent business travelers and conventions" to the expanded hotel.
Joe Trimble of Laventhol & Horwath, an accounting firm which monitors hotels in the District area, said he believes Arlington will be able to absorb the hotel rooms.
"A business person may have calls to make in D.C., and transportation into the city from Arlington is very good," he said. "But, more often, they may be calling on firms in Northern Virginia as well, which makes a location like Crystal City ideal."
Trimble said other areas near the District, such as Landover and Tyson's Corner, are also seeing an increase in hotel construction following on the heels of new industries and businesses.
"One leads to another," he said. "New hotels also create the need for more new hotels because an area becomes a viable site for a convention. Conventions often draw enough people to fill more than one."
For Arlington, once the haven of low-cost hotels catering to the budget-minded D.C. tourist, the influx of quality hotels is expected to bring both tax revenue and employment for residents. In 1983, the last year for which figures are available, the county received $13 million in occupany and property taxes from the hotel industry, said Wahl.
"Obviously, that will increase as the amount of hotel space increases," she said.
County hotels also presently employ some 10,200 Arlington residents, said Wahl. Many of these hotel jobs are for low-skilled workers and are perfect for the thousands of immigrants who have settled in the county over the past decade.
"The county has definitely encouraged hotels," said Wahl. "Some areas, such as Eads Street and parts of Jefferson Davis Highway, have become hotel strips."
Not all of the new hotel space is expected to cater to the business class, however. Two budget-priced motels are currently under construction in Arlington, said Wahl, and another has been approved by the county board.
"We are still mainly interested in the tourist trade," said Paul F. Neff, vice president of Cherry Blossom Hotel Inc., which owns the Quality Inn-Iwo Jima. The company recently applied to the county for permission to build an 85-unit addition that would double the size of the originial motel, built in 1957.
"We're not adding meeting rooms or anything," he said. "We'll leave that to the other . . . " approved projects.