Editorial: A place to rest
Weddings and Roger Williams University bring thousands of visitors to Bristol 12 months per year, but very few of those visitors stay here. There aren't enough beds. When they drive off, those visitors take their wallets, purses and appetites with them.
It's been this way for at least a decade, as Roger Williams has become an international destination, and half a dozen historic properties have built an amazingly vibrant wedding scene here in town.
On an average three-day weekend in the warmer months of the year, this town hosts five to 10 wedding ceremonies or receptions. In a year, the town hosts 300 weddings — each bringing scores or even hundreds of out-of-town visitors to Bristol.
At the university, conferences, prestigious speakers and the regular cycle of orientation, parents' weekends, homecoming and graduations, bring thousands of visitors annually.
Like the wedding guests, some of these university guests find beds at the Bristol Harbor Inn (40 rooms) or the fantastic collection of bed-and-breakfasts (34 more beds), but most drive away at night, to hotel beds in Newport, Seekonk, Providence or elsewhere. When they leave, they don't wake up and eat breakfast here, visit the gift shops here, or have an extra meal here. When they can't find hotel rooms here, they don't hold their rehearsal dinner here.
All these dollars leave the Bristol economy and find their way to other towns and cities.
Are restaurants and gift shops the backbone of the Bristol economy? No. Service contractors, tradesmen and builders probably create more of an economic impact. But the service, food and tourism businesses might be a close second, and they are losing money every week because there are not enough hotel rooms here in town.
A proposal to build a new hotel near the intersection of Gooding and Metacom avenues will meet its detractors. Complaints will be heard about traffic, congestion and those darned "out-of-towners." Yet those complaints should not carry the day. Properly sited and properly designed, a hotel would bring more good than harm.
All know the refrains, but they bear repeating. Healthy businesses keep people employed, expand the tax base and contribute mightily to the charities and nonprofits in this community. A hotel is good for all.