A little more than two years after Tahlequah voters approved a tax incentive to help recruit hotels with more than 80 rooms, Promise Hotels hosted a ribbon-cutting Thursday for the Tru by Hilton at Cherokee Springs Plaza.

Pete Patel, CEO and president of Promise Hotels, said that at the time local officials were discussing a city proposition to create the incentive in 2018, the economics would not have worked without it. The following August, voters narrowly approved it, 1,028 to 1,013.

“It was a close vote, but they said yes, and this is today the fruits of that,” said Patel.

The new hotel has four stories and 90 rooms. It features 2,880 square feet of mixed-use lobby space, where guests can work, play and eat. It offers digital check-in and room selection, digital keys, and complimentary Wi-Fi. It also has an “Eat & Sip” market, a multifunctional fitness center, and a build-your-own breakfast bar.

Patel said Hilton Hotels has over 90 million reward members, so the new lodging can welcome guests from all over the world with the Hilton Honors reward program.

“The size of this hotel will also allow us to host more athletic teams that have been staying in towns like Muskogee and Tulsa,” he said. “So I think we’ll be able to capture more business that was going out of the community.”

Situated next to the recently-built Cherokee Casino, the Tru by Hilton is part of the growing economic development project at the Cherokee Springs Plaza. Among the other recently opened businesses in that area, the hotel will add to the tax base for the city of Tahlequah. In addition to the tax dollars, it has also brought in new jobs.

“As the community has grown, our company’s investment has also grown here in town,” said Patel. “We will be adding anywhere from about 35 to 40 full and part-time jobs. During construction, this hotel had over 125 jobs over the 14 months it took. So we are truly committed to this community and the hospitality industry in Tahlequah.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has ruined vacations for people across the country who would have gone to stay at a lodging somewhere. With an assortment of outdoor attractions in Tahlequah, the tourism industry fared a little better than most, with resorts reporting good turnouts this summer. And although the hotel industry was one of the first to suffer from the coronavirus, Patel said it won’t be long before Promise Hotels starts regaining its momentum after seeing record profitability before the pandemic.

“Even though occupancies are down a bit, we are still very optimistic that the fundamentals of tourism and commerce, with our great recreational areas, will come back stronger than ever in the next few years,” said Patel. “This hotel will help host many of those tourists who will come to see all of the great attractions we have here, like the Illinois River, Lake Tenkiller, Northeastern State [University], and Cherokee Nation.”

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