Hotel industry cashes in on shale boom

LISBON – Check with any hotel, motel or campground throughout the area, and the one thing found in common is the presence of the shale industry.

With employment growth among the Marcellus and Utica shales, workers have counted on hotels to unwind after a hard day at work, and the hotels have looked forward to them as well.

“They get up early, go to work at 5 or 6 in the morning and come home,” said Mike Perline, manager of the Salem/Lisbon KOA Kampground. “You couldn’t ask for better guests than that.”

Since the boom hit two years ago, hotels and motels throughout the area have experienced a steady stream of tenants and guests year-round.

“We have quite a few workers coming and going throughout the year,” said Aaron Stevens, owner of the Travelers Motel. “They stay for two weeks, and then they’re off for two weeks, and as soon as they leave, we have another group of people staying for two weeks. It’s just been consistently busy for us.”

The Salem/Lisbon KOA on Winona Road in Salem has seen its share of success during the boom. Since last year, the campground opened for winter accommodations, and those in the shale industry seized the opportunity.

“This is the second winter we’ve been open, and the second straight year we’re at full capacity,” Perline said. “We started with 20 spaces last winter, then we added three more, and kept adding.”

The KOA offers its usual campground amenities like its swimming pool, three-acre fishing pond, miniature golf and bike rentals during camping season as well as Wi-Fi and cable TV year-round.

It also provides dining options for guests like Shindigz, a snack bar and general store where guests can pick up all kinds of snacks like pizza, wings and milkshakes along with other odds and ends.

The campground goes a step further with “Family Food Night.” As the name implies, one large family-style dinner is served to all shale workers as a token of the campground’s appreciation.

“Sometimes we’ll have hamburgers, steaks, Mexican food, pretty much food for one big family,” Perline said. “They have worked 10 or 12 hours a day. The least they look forward to is to come home after a long day at work and cook. They’ve been very good to us, and so we want to do right by them.”

Those looking to stay at the campgrounds, however, are urged to call ahead as high volume from the shale industry has resulted in very few openings.

“We have just been booked solid this year,” Perline said. “We have more people on a waiting list once an opening comes up. We are, however, considering adding some more cabins pretty soon.”

The business of a smaller lodging option such as the Travelers Motel, located on state Route 45 in Lisbon, consists almost entirely of workers in the shale industry.

Stevens noted when he reopened the motel in 2012 after being closed for three years, he had the shale industry in mind during the motel’s renovations.

“It was my idea when I came in to make it livable for the workers,” Stevens said. “They’re pretty good guys. They’re hard working guys who just want to relax after their hard day, and we’ve been able to accommodate to them.”

Stevens also isn’t worried too much with competing against big name hotels like the Days Inn on state Route 154 in Lisbon.

“We have been better because of the price,” Stevens said. “There’s no comparison in price as far as hotels go. We offer queen beds, cable TV, Wi-Fi, the same things that any hotel would.”

The Frola Motel, also located on state Route 45, also has seen success with the shale industry as well.

“The shale boom has been great for us,” said a representative who wished to remain anonymous. “They guys have been absolutely great, and we have had a good response with them here. Our maid can even tell you how good they have been.”

Big hotels like the Days Inn also have been a temporary residence for shale workers. The Days Inn also includes nearby dining options like the Shale Tavern and Grille, located next door to the hotel. Representatives from the Days Inn were unavailable for comment.

The shale boom has given hope to many, and as long as the industry remains in the area, hotels will continue to strive for more business.

“They have been like family to us now,” Perline said. “They have helped us, so we’ll keep helping them.”