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ALACHUA ‒ Opening its doors for the first time, a new Hilton Hampton Inn in Alachua is now welcoming visitors to stay when traveling for leisure or business. After almost three years in development, the Hilton Hampton Inn opened its doors on April 28. .Located just west of I-75 off U.S. Highway 441 at 15930 N.W. 163rd Lane, the new hotel features 101 rooms, including 32 suites, a conference room, gym and full-size pool that is ADA compliant for wheelchair access. The suites are larger than the regular rooms and can sleep up to six with two king beds and a couch that folds out to sleep additional guests.

The Hilton corporation has a variety of hotels in its brand, ranging from the high-end Waldorf and Conrad hotels to the more economical Hampton Inns and Doubletree hotels. While the Alachua hotel is under the Hilton brand, all Hampton Inns are franchises, owned and operated by individual investors. Nationwide there are over 1,200 Hampton Inns. While most of the Hilton Hotel chain consists of individual franchises, they all must meet corporate standards before opening.

General Manager Kari Adams said this was just one of the delays in opening. “We had hoped to open before Gator Nationals in March but Covid hit the hotel industry hard. Travel was very limited in 2020, and a lot of hotels couldn't survive with limited guests.” Adams explained that COVID also changed the way rooms were cleaned and sanitized, adding additional health restrictions that made hotel chains revise their corporate requirements.

“Before we could open, we had to change a lot of things that were not necessary before,” Adams said. “Another delay was getting supplies, especially from overseas sources. What had taken a few weeks to order and deliver is now taking months.”

Hotels nationwide are facing shortages of linens. Adams added, “We planned ahead and ordered a larger supply, but there was still a three to four-month wait.”

Adams has worked for the Hilton corporation for over 20 years, mainly in Las Vegas. She was eager to make the move to assist in opening the new hotel and move to Florida where she has family.

The investors are local and have purchased 150 acres surrounding the hotel with plans for other projects on the property as well.

“Hampton Inns are called lighthouse hotels because they have initiated a number of new ideas that put the hotel in the forefront of innovation. They are geared more toward business clientele and creating ways to make their stay easier and more efficient,” said Adams.

“For our silver, gold and diamond club members we have created ‘digital keys’ that work directly off a phone app so the guest can use their phones for keyless entry and control the thermostat directly from their phone,” said Adams. “This makes check out much easier as well.”

Given the distribution centers that call Alachua home, the hotel has a parking area for trucks. “In most hotels, truckers need to find someplace else to park the large truck overnight,” said Adams. “We have created a parking area at the hotel for trucks, so the drivers do not have to worry about not being able to watch their rig or get to it easier if they have to get items from it at night.”

The hotel has also made revisions to housekeeping procedures to provide enhanced health safety due to Covid. Each room is thoroughly cleaned with Lysol on all surfaces as well as plastic wraps on TV remotes that are changed with each guest. After the cleaning, a seal is placed across the door and nobody else is allowed in the sanitized room until the next guest checks in. These cleaning practices apply to all surfaces in the hotel on an ongoing basis.

Although the hotel is already open for guests, Adams said they will introduce themselves to the community on a more personal level and plan to host an open house to the public on June 23 from 5-7 p.m. with a variety of events and giveaways. There will be a larger Grand Opening in September as Covid restrictions ease to allow more public interaction. Adams said, “The City of Alachua has been very helpful throughout the process and we want to be part of the local community as well.”

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