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Hospitality bringing big bucks to Bakersfield

A single Bakersfield, Calif., corner hosts the signs of three hotels Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A popular movie line goes, "If you build it, they will come."

Turns out, that saying also applies to hotels in Bakersfield.

Bakersfield may not be a major tourist destination, but last year tourism was a huge part of the local economy.

Oil and agriculture have kept Bakersfield moving for decades, but now good old-fashioned hospitality is pushing the economy forward.

Don't believe it? Visit Bakersfield Director David Lyman isn't surprised.

"Many people will say to me, 'There's no tourists that come to Bakersfield.' I'll say, 'Yes there are,'" he said. "And I'll say, 'Why do you think all those hotel rooms are there for?'"

About 6,000 hotel rooms, for the record. And those rooms aren't empty.

Last year, the city collected more than $9.5 million from hotel taxes, the most in any year ever.

In that time, average hotel rates stayed the same. That means the only explanation for the increase in revenue is more people spending more nights in Bakersfield hotels. All those dollars are before counting the revenue generated by visitors who are spending money on food and drinks, shopping or entertainment.

"Tourism spending keeps people employed," said Lyman. "It creates jobs, it retains jobs, it plows money through the economy, it generations local and state tax revenues."

Knowing the word about Bakersfield is spreading and that visitors are ripe for the picking, many hotels in town are doing renovations.

DoubleTree General Manager Francois Khoury said his hotel is spending $10 million on upgrades.

"It's a lot of money, and you don't do that unless you're confident in getting a return on investment, and our owners are confident in that return on investment," said Khoury.

The only way there's the return on that investment is if visitors return again and again, powering not only the hotels but the entire Bakersfield economy.

A couple more hotels are in the works throughout the city.

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