The hosting of various Liberty events such as family weekends, College for a Weekend (CFAW), Commencement and conferences boost the local economy through the increased use of restaurants and hotels.
“The constant flow of visitors for recruiting, sporting and academic events is a major source of revenue for the hotel and restaurant business. This year, the DeMoss Grand Lobby Visitor Center will welcome between 25,000 and 30,000 guests,” Enrollment Office employee Luke Enns said.
Some of the highest revenue-generating events hosted by Liberty University include Commencement, Winterfest, College for a Weekend (CFAW), and Friendly Fridays. This past year, CFAW brought in 5,914 visitors to the Lynchburg area. Winterfest generated 5,250 visitors, and Friendly Fridays have brought 1,061 people to the Lynchburg area.
“The total recruitment guests will reach 13,000 this year,” Enns said.
According to the STAR Report from Smith Travel Research, Lynchburg-area hotels generally have just a 52 percent occupancy rate, a 4.7 percent decrease from last year, which the STAR Report blames on the bad economy. That 52 percent occupancy rate skyrockets, though, on certain weekends.
“When special events are held at Liberty University, the demand for hotel rooms increases dramatically. Some of the primary drivers for occupancy are Commencement, students returning back to school, College for a Weekend (four times a year), WinterFest, Homecoming and Parents Weekend,” Wingate and Days Inn Hotel Regional Manager Brian Knopp said.
During these events, hotels can expect to run between 90 and 100 percent occupancy.
The Days Inn at River Ridge Mall has 131 rooms. Wingate features 131 rooms, and the Super 8 Motel has 58 rooms. Because of the influx of visitors during these events, the rates for hotel rooms typically increase from $20 to $30 per night.
“The busiest months for the hotel business in Lynchburg are May, August and October. You will notice a correlation with these dates and events held at colleges,” Knopp said.
Not only are hotels impacted by the amount of visitors, restaurants also welcome visitors and their accompanying appetites.
Due to the increase of Liberty students and visitors, restaurant owners have been putting new restaurants near the university, concentrating primarily on Wards Road and Candlers Mountain Road.
According to the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce, Wards Road is the area that generates the majority of the city’s sales tax revenue. Wards Road hosts a variety of restaurants and shopping centers greatly impacted by Liberty events.
“During Liberty University events such as Commencement, College for a Weekend and Winterfest, our restaurant stays packed. There are usually wait times up to an hour long to get a table,” Logan’s Roadhouse waitress Wynne Miller said.