City leaders say hotel not making all of its rooms available part of reason conventions skip El Paso

POSTED: 06:02 PM MDT Jun 19, 2013    UPDATED: 09:02 PM MST Jan 15, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

The city of El Paso said it's losing out on national conventions that infuse money into the local economy, in part, because one local hotel does not make all of its rooms available.

City leaders on Tuesday said the Camino Real Hotel is part of the reason some big business doesn't come to the borderland, including, for example, the national convention for the League of United Latin American Citizens. "They didn't come because of the lack of rooms in the downtown area and because the Camino Real was not really accomadating to them," said City Representative Emma Acosta.

According to a recent city study, the city needs a minimum of 800 hotel rooms downtown to lure big conferences.

According to the city, the DoubleTree has about 200 rooms, The Holiday Inn Express has about 120 and the camino has 370 rooms, but out of those, only 120 are in use.

That means there are only 440 rooms available downtown.  "If they were able to bring back those 250 rooms back up to use, it would bring us to 792 which is close the 800 that we need to be competitive," said Mayor John Cook.

City Manager Joyce Wilson said the city has met with the Camino's chief financial officer, from the hotel's ownership group in Mexico.

She told city council on Tuesday that the hotel has had problems getting funding to remodel some entire floors and hundreds of rooms.

Wilson said for years, the city has tried to offer them tax rebates to encourage renovation of the hotel's rooms. "We have sent them formal letters providing them with information about incentives and offering to work with them in return for a full rehab and national flag hotel. I can recall at least 4 meetings held in my office with various Camino Real officials about our concerns and their interest in what assistance/incentives might be available. While we have had some follow up and most recently visits from developers/architects apparently hired by the ownership group, we have never had a formal request for financial assistance nor any specific proposal," Wilson wrote in an email.

Cook said the hotel's leadership has met several times with city staff, including deputy city managers.
"They (Camino Real managers) were saying you've put money into the DoubleTree, how about us? And I told them I would advocate for a tax rebate packet that was very similar but they had to come to us with a plan as to how they were going to get 250 rooms back online. They never came back with a plan. And quite frankly, we can't finance a plan that's not existent."

ABC-7 reached out to the Camino Real. A local representative said she had to relay in the information to their corporate office in Mexico. She also said there were hundreds of rooms that are not in use and added she was going to tell management about the potential for tax rebates.