Plenty of Empty Rooms at Local Inns, Owner Says

Click above to hear Fig Street Inn Bed & Breakfast owner Donna Kohler address the Cape Charles Planning Commission.

Cape Charles Wave

November 12, 2013

Perceptions that Bed and Breakfasts in Cape Charles are doing a booming business are not accurate, Fig Street Inn owner Donna Kohler told the Cape Charles Planning Commission November 5. The reality is that occupancy last year averaged 28 percent among the five B&Bs in town, she said.

Kohler addressed the Planning Commission after the Wave reported October 3 that Commissioners wanted more motels on Route 13.  Commissioner Joan Natali said, “I’d love to see two or three hotels out on Route 13. The occupancy of our hotels has been consistently full. The reason is we have become a wedding destination.”

Not so, refuted Kohler. Even in August the occupancy rate was only 53 percent. “There is the idea that we need more rooms because we’re becoming a wedding destination and we need places for these guests to stay. Speaking only for my bed and breakfast, wedding guests aren’t staying at my inn . . . they make up under 10 percent of my business,” she said.

Kohler noted there are “multiple weddings” on any given weekend. “We know that the guests are coming, but we also know that they’re not choosing to stay in town.

“Is it appropriate for the Town to be concerned about a market that is basically a pass-through?” Kohler asked. “They’re here for one reason only – a wedding – and they are literally in and out in less than 24 hours.

“There is not enough demand for the inventory that already exists,” Kohler said. “If there were, I would think that the Hotel Cape Charles would be open year-‘round.

“You might want to say that we’re a summer destination and we need places for people to stay in the summer months,” Kohler continued. “That is not necessarily true. For August 2013, my inn had an occupancy rate of only 46 percent – far below what anyone would expect of a peak season.


“There are already 150 rooms available in greater Cape Charles among seven motels and beds and breakfasts on Route 13. Once Kiptopeke [Inn] reopens it adds about another 100 units,” she said.

Planning Commission chairman Dennis McCoy stopped Kohler in mid-sentence after she had spoken exactly four minutes. “Time,” he said. No other member of the public spoke at the meeting.

Both Town of Cape Charles and Northampton County comprehensive plans call for development in towns rather than on the highways. The Cape Charles Business Association has urged Town Council to discourage development on the highway in favor of encouraging travelers to visit the Town.

Planning Commission consideration of a Town Entrance Overlay District has morphed into a discussion of what kind of development is appropriate on Route 13, Stone Road, and Old Cape Charles Road.

Kohler’s remarks to the Planning Commission may be heard in full (up to the point she was gaveled) by clicking the visual at the top of the page.



3 Responses to “Plenty of Empty Rooms at Local Inns, Owner Says”

  1. Don & Deborah Bender on November 12th, 2013 7:47 am

    Of course Mr. McCoy had to stop Mrs. Kohler mid-sentence. After all, she was speaking out FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES! Thanks so much, Ms. Natali, for working towards businesses on the highway. If there was a need for a big hotel it would already be here. What this town needs is more people on these boards that want to keep businesses IN TOWN and not encourage businesses on the highway.

  2. Wayne Creed on November 12th, 2013 9:58 am

    It appears the real difference between Greek yogurt and the Cape Charles Planning Commission is at least the yogurt has an active, live culture. Maybe if McCoy and Natali could put the stopwatches down and listen to the people, they might actually learn something. The Planning Commission has become irrelevant, nothing more than a stooge’s playground, and hardly worth taking seriously. Why is it that when anyone on this presumed commission talks about development along the lower Eastern Shore, like one-trick ponies, they only seem to mention more hotels and strip malls? Is the intellectual bandwidth within their ranks so narrow that agritech, aquaculture, marine and estuarine research and development, and what the Town can do to promote them, is never mentioned? Mr. McCoy and his vulgar stopwatch has become mobile metaphor for the incompetence and malfeasance that has infected all levels of Town governance, and it fills the ordinary people with equal parts disgust and embarrassment.

    How much longer must we be expected to tolerate the abuse of First Amendment rights, as well as access to legitimate due process? Like good serfs, are we just supposed to bear this on our backs like a rat’s burden, trying to ignore the dull quiet urging to just give in, as they whisper from the fog Mengele’s fastidious mantra, “The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it.”

  3. Donna Bozza on November 12th, 2013 12:24 pm

    This research may be helpful as it points clearly to the rise in travelers choosing vacation rentals. While hotels and motels have traditionally been the lodging option of choice for travelers, recent statistics indicate a growing preference for vacation rental properties. According to a survey released in April by TripAdvisor, nearly half (49%) of the 1,300 U.S. travelers who responded to the survey indicated that they either have or plan to stay in a rental home in 2013, up from 40% in 2011 and 46% in 2012. Why such a surge in interest for vacation rentals over hotels? According to the survey, 82% of respondents cited savings and last-minute deals as the top reasons. Other motivating factors included traveling with a large group and the availability of more living space. While not specifically mentioned in the survey, it’s probable that greater awareness of the availability of vacation rentals as a result of increased online marketing and guest referrals is also playing a big role in the shift.