Consultant says downtown hotel in Conway won't work

At least now we know. That seems to be the reaction of Conway city leaders to a consultant's study that shows the number of visitors just aren't there to support a hotel in downtown Conway right now.

"We know the answer is we need to do a few more things to stimulate some economic growth before that would be viable," said Mayor Alys Lawson.

The city did the feasibility study partly because the growth of Coastal Carolina University seemed to indicate an increased need for a hotel.

"With the families and the development of the sporting arenas and that kind of thing, that potential is only going to grow in the future," said Kelli James, executive vice president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce.

The consultants say revenues for a downtown hotel would fall a few million dollars short of being profitable in the first few years, but the city could potentially make it work if hotel developers were offered some incentives.

"There could be some land possibilities, some abatement of taxes and those are just things we haven't really looked into any further," Lawson said.

A second study, this one focused on marketing the downtown, shows that the city could do more to take advantage of its Waccamaw riverfront, by encouraging more residential and business development.

"Those activities on the riverfront that might draw people here - kayaking, paddle-boarding, fishing and then that will lead into our business development that supports that type of activity," said Hillary Howard, executive director of Conway Downtown Alive.

Howard says the studies don't lead to the conclusion the city will never have a downtown hotel, but only that it will have to keep growing and try again later.