It didn’t make sense to open the Peregrine Hotel during a time when people weren’t traveling.
So the Omaha hotel, near 18th and Douglas Streets, opened about a year later than planned.
Business is starting to pick up, creating a sense of things returning to normal, said general manager David Scott.
The Peregrine is one of a handful of new hotels that have opened or are under construction in Omaha. Managers said they have been adjusting to the changing travel industry.
Douglas County has nearly 10,000 hotel rooms, according to the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Despite recent closures, including the loss of Coco Key near 72nd and Grover Streets, the city has seen a 2% increase in hotel rooms, said Deborah Ward, Visit Omaha’s executive director.
The city’s hotel industry has ebbed and flowed in the last two years.
“The pandemic did take its toll,” Ward said. “We did lose some rooms, but they’re coming back — and the numbers are coming back — even stronger.”
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New additions to the downtown hotel landscape, in addition to the Peregrine, include The Farnam, at 13th and Farnam Streets, and Hotel Indigo, at 18th and Dodge Streets.
The three completed hotels add a total of 299 rooms to Omaha’s downtown.
The Blackstone district saw the opening of the newly renovated Cottonwood Hotel — formerly the Blackstone Hotel — near 36th and Farnam Streets in 2020. The Cottonwood added 205 rooms.
Those hotels were planned pre-pandemic. But another wave of new hotels is in the works across the city.
Those include a hotel on the former site of The Diner at 12th and Harney Streets in the Old Market. Once complete, it will add 113 rooms.
Other sites in the works include a Holiday Inn Express in Blair, a Fairfield Inn and Suites near 72nd and Grover Streets and two hotels in west Omaha, Ward said.
The Old Market hotel, the Moxy, is part of the Marriott chain. The six-story hotel is slated to open between April and June 2023, said Samir Patel, director of development for Hawkeye Hotels.
Construction was delayed for about a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Work on the hotel started in June 2021. Now, crews are framing the building’s third floor.
The Moxy, Patel said, is designed to serve business and leisure travelers. The Omaha space will include nods to the city’s history as a transportation hub.
The Moxy brand will fit in with the vibrancy in the Old Market, Patel said. The local economy, as well as strong sectors in finance, insurance and information technology, made Omaha a draw.
“We’ve been circling the Omaha market for almost a decade,” Patel said.
The Cottonwood Hotel, which opened in November 2020, has spent its first year in a learning curve, said Steve Shern, general manager.
“Data is out the window because everything is so different,” he said.
So far, the hotel has drawn plenty of business and leisure travelers. It also has been booked for weddings and other special events.
The hotel’s pool is a big draw in the summer months. And special events attract the public into the hotel space year-round.
“We want to be Omaha’s living room,” Shern said. “We want everybody hanging out here, whether they come for the historical piece, for the food or a special event. We want them to feel like this is their hotel.”
Including the three newly opened hotels — the Peregrine, The Farnam and Hotel Indigo — downtown Omaha is home to at least a dozen others that range from boutique-style lodgings to more traditional full-service hotels.
Downtown sees the most demand for hotel rooms, partly because that’s where the city’s main convention center sits, Ward said. Other events such as the College World Series also are hosted downtown.
“People want to stay closer to the event space,” Ward said.
The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in early May drew numbers similar to 2019, the last year the meeting was held in person, Ward said.
Occupancy numbers during Berkshire weekend were 89.7% on Friday and 89% on Saturday. Typically, they sit at 90% on Friday and 95% on Saturday.
Those kinds of numbers indicate demand is returning, Ward said.
Hotel managers said they have seen an uptick in visitors — some there on “staycations” and others traveling nationally or internationally.
Larger chains have been branching out into the boutique business to attract both new and existing customers.
The Peregrine is part of the high-end Hilton Curio brand. The Farnam is part of the Marriott Bonvoy Autograph Collection. The Cottonwood Hotel and Hotel Indigo offer unique lodgings with nods to Omaha history.
“These four hotel properties bring a deluxe collection to the city’s hotel package,” Ward said. “It allows our out-of-towners some of the most unique hotels in the Midwest.”
The Peregrine, for example, sits near Omaha’s Woodmen Tower, which is typically home to peregrine falcons. The hotel’s interior features a peregrine mural and other nods to the bird throughout the space.
“All of these properties have these really cool, unique factors,” Ward said. “It’s not your typical hotel when you walk into them.”
The Peregrine “has its own story to tell,” said Scott, the general manager. Brands have specific standards when it comes to room sizes, meeting spaces and restaurants, but the boutique element allowed owners to work within the existing building space for the Peregrine, Scott said.
The 89-room hotel is closer to the courthouses and office towers than it is to the stadium and convention center. The initial goal was to draw business travelers, but officials have since drawn fans for sporting events and attendees of the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting.
“We’ve revisited what audience we can attract,” Scott said. “It opened up a market we hadn’t thought of or considered for ourselves pre-COVID.”
Boutique hotels also appeal to people staying home for vacation, or “staycationers.” It makes for an easy getaway, Ward said, where guests can stay in their own city and be taken care of without having to worry about housework.
While boutique hotels are having a moment, traditional hotels are still necessary. They appeal to business travelers and convention attendees. They’re also typically booked up by sports teams and fans, especially during the College World Series.
The influx of new hotels, especially in the downtown area, isn’t a threat, the hotel managers said.
Many frequent travelers want to stay with a brand they trust. But those companies’ boutique offerings allow them to still try something new.
“It’s a natural demand,” the Peregrine’s Scott said.
“Any time a hotelier feels confident enough in a city’s tourism, that’s when they start thinking about building,” Ward said. “When you start to see hotel developers wanting to bring in a hotel, they’re speaking and saying, ‘Hey, we believe your city will grow.’”