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Thursday doorbuster shopping drives up Canadian occupancy at Watertown hotels


Hoteliers say rooms were jammed with a record number of Canadian shoppers who stayed multiple nights in Watertown last week, largely thanks to early doorbuster sales offered Thursday night by national retailers for Black Friday.

Hotels off Arsenal Street that were at or near full capacity Thursday and Friday nights included the Comfort Inn, Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Ramada Inn, hoteliers said. The Comfort Inn required its guests to book a two-night minimum stay during the week of Black Friday this year, because of the high demand among Canadians for multi-night stays, said Rebecca J. Minas, front desk manager.

Last week, more than 90 percent of guests at the hotel on Commerce Park Drive were Canadians, Mrs. Minas said. It was the busiest Black Friday weekend she’s witnessed during her six years as an employee. About 60 percent of the Canadian guests stayed Thursday and Friday, she said, while the other 40 percent booked longer stays at the 135-room hotel.

On Thursday, “we had only five rooms that didn’t sell out, and earlier in the week we had been sold out,” Mrs. Minas said Friday afternoon. “At 7 a.m. today we had 11 rooms to sell, and now I’m down to only eight.”

Mrs. Minas, who keeps track of available rooms at neighboring hotels, reported that fewer than a dozen rooms were available Friday night at the Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express. When the Comfort Inn is booked with reservations, customers are referred to hotels with openings.

Located directly across from the Comfort Inn on the south side of Arsenal Street, the 90-room Hampton Inn was entirely booked Thursday and Friday nights, said Christian J. McCarty, front desk clerk. Thursday sales offered by retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart were a major boon for Canadians, he said. He noted that Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving on Oct. 14, so they didn’t have family gatherings that conflicted with shopping early.

“I had Canadians checking in at 3 p.m. Thursday, and they were going directly to the stores to get in line,” Mr. McCarty said. “Americans were eating dinner and going shopping after that at night, while the Canadians crossed over the border and went shopping right away.”

The Ramada Inn had similar success by booking all of its 145 rooms Wednesday and Thursday, and nearly filling them Friday, said Charles W. Palmatier, general manager at the Arsenal Street hotel. Last year during the same week, he said, the hotel sold out only on Thursday night.

The earlier Thanksgiving Day shopping schedule set by national retailers created stronger occupancy rates for all Watertown hotels, Mr. Palmatier said.

“It’s fabulous for retailers and hotels across the board,” he said. The week of Black Friday “is bringing revenue into the Watertown area in November for hotels, which is not a huge revenue month.”

For the second straight Black Friday weekend, Canadians also took advantage of a Canadian customs rule that expanded the amount of merchandise they’re able to bring back duty free. In 2011, they could bring back only $50 per person in merchandise after a 24-hour visit and $200 after 48 hours. The limits are now $200 after 24 hours and $800 after 48.

Calls seeking comment Friday afternoon were not returned by Charlotte H. Waterson, Holiday Inn Express general manager, and Jody L. Petit, Hilton Garden Inn general manager.

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