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New Barrie hotel a crucial first step to increasing occupancy rates

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A new hotel in the works in Barrie's south end comes as the City continues to deal with occupancy rate challenges.

The Bryne Drive location will see a Holiday Inn Express built, adding 100 new hotel rooms to a city needing more hotel space.

"We are short on hotel space. We know that we don't have enough supply," said Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall. "Barrie needs to have a few hundred more hotel rooms, and so this is going to make a big dent in that."

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday at the site.

Hotel Franchisee Jay Panchal said he already intends to build a second hotel.

"An extended stay site would be that one," Panchal said. "There's enough room for two hotels, but one at a time; we plan for the first one right now."

That's music to the ears of the Barrie Women's Hockey Association (BWHA), which is hosting its Sharkfest tournament this weekend.

The association estimates that it has roughly 800 hotel books annually for the tournament, but a large portion of them are booked outside of the city.

"We never seem to be able to get our hands on as many hotel rooms in Barrie as we can fill," said Rob Emerson, BWHA President. "We've got enough ice to host 150 teams, but one of the issues is finding hotels to stay in, so the decision was made to split it (tournament) into two separate events."

What that means to the City of Barrie is a series of missed opportunities.

"It's missed dollars for hoteliers, it's missed dollars for restaurant owners," Nuttall added. "Quite frankly, it creates a situation where some organizations just won't come here."

Currently, Barrie Tourism's list of hotels shows there are 14 in the city.

The new south-end hotel is expected to take 14 to 16 months to complete.

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