If you can spot Mount Pony, you’re within an easy shot of Culpeper County’s new Hampton Inn.
The four-story, $11.5 million Hilton property sits prominently beside U.S. 29 just southeast of town, between Merillat Industries north of the highway and the Library of Congress’ National Audio-Visual Conservation Center to the south.
Culpeper County officials are delighted that the hotel, which opened its doors on Good Friday, is up and running. And they’re full of hope that it will boost visitation to this scenic and historic part of the Virginia Piedmont.
“This has been the result of years of study, negotiation, private investment and cooperative effort,” Culpeper Director of Economic Development and Tourism Paige Read said in an interview Thursday.
“It’s the kind of thing, when you get involved in the very early stages, you keep your fingers crossed it will come to fruition,” Read added. “And it’s wonderfully satisfying when they do.”
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be in Culpeper,” said Patricia Derflinger, the new hotel’s general manager. “We look forward to working with the local tourism office and other local resources to really get to know the Culpeper community.”
Sales Manager Roberta Pacheco said a grand opening and a ribbon-cutting are in the planning stages for sometime in July. “We just want to do a few more things cosmetically before we start shaking hands and kissing babies,” she said.
A native of Great Britain, Pacheco impresses callers to the hotel with her accent. “I’ve lived in the States for 30 years now,” she said. “It’s great to be here in Culpeper, a beautiful place.”
Construction started on the new Hampton Inn in late 2017, with the project’s cost totaling $11.5 million.
“It was just due to maintaining the Hilton standards for materials and construction, and training employees,” Derflinger said of the 18 months taken by construction, furnishing rooms and training staff. “Nearly all our employees are completely new to the brand, so some growing pains are to be expected.”
Hired by Hilton just over a year ago, Derflinger came to the job after serving as the sales manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Warrenton.
She brought some key employees with her from Warrenton, including Lea Eilers and Judy Greene, who work together to present Hampton Inn’s signature free, healthy, hot breakfast and “on the run” breakfast bags for guests to take with them on the road.
“Leah was recognized as Holiday Inn’s International Breakfast Attendant last year,” Derflinger said. “Both of them are dedicated to providing excellent food and friendly, personal service.”
Eilers also creates the hotel’s fresh flower arrangements, seen in the spacious lobby and lounge, and near the first-floor elevators.
The Culpeper Hampton Inn employs about 25 people. It boasts the only saltwater, heated swimming pool in the region, a fitness center, 24-hour guest business center—equipped with state-of-the-art technology—and several room configurations in the newest “Forever Young” Hampton brand design, with free Wi-Fi provided, and refrigerators and microwave ovens in every room.
Hilton, one of America’s best hotel companies, is internationally renowned for its customer-loyalty program. Its new property will bring people devoted to Hilton’s global brand to Culpeper County, the hotel’s managers and Culpeper’s tourism chief said.
“Hilton is one of the top three recognized brands in the world,” Read said. “With its reward program, a whole new audience will be invited to see Culpeper now, which is great for everyone here.”
Culpeper is growing as a destination, attracting an increasing number of recreational and consumer visitation. In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, domestic-traveler spending for the county was $42.6 million, an increase of 5.9 percent over 2016 and more than the state average of a 4.4 percent increase.
“When all that’s happening, you need to have growth in housing options,” Read said.
“Having a new hotel in no way diminishes our other lodging in Culpeper,” she added. “Having them here makes it better for everyone—a rising tide carries all boats, as they say. It’s good when you get to add a well-known brand to the existing mix.”
Hilton estimates the property will generate between $250,000 to $300,000 per month in sales, Derflinger said.
“We’ll get a lot of the snowbirds that travel up and down U.S. 29, and we’ll get any overflow for big events in Charlottesville, like when U.Va. plays Tech in football, for example,” she said. “We’ve already seen some wedding traffic, and there are a number of companies headquartered here that we expect will use us for corporate events.”
The property is three miles from Culpeper’s downtown. Next to 88 Lumber, the hotel is located at 18411 Gate Road, off Lovers Lane, the frontage road that links U.S. 15 near The Culpeper assisted-care center and State Route 522 near the Library of Congress’ Packard Theater. The hotel is owned by H3YMB LLC in Edgewood, Md.
One challenge that Derflinger has encountered since the hotel’s opening is helping her guests find transportation to and from the downtown historic district’s restaurants and shopping.
“Recently, one lady waited an hour and a half for an Uber driver to get here from Fredericksburg to drive her into Culpeper,” Derflinger said. “There’s no cab service here, and not many Uber or Lyft drivers. And so far, not much interest from restaurants to potentially get their food delivered out here, somehow.”
Although the town has a bus service that runs several routes from various neighborhoods to shopping areas, Read said she’s unsure the new Hampton Inn could be looped in on that concept.
“I can’t speak for them, but it’s also a question we’ve asked,” she said. “It’s a capacity thing when you look at public transportation, and right now we’re just below the tipping point. It’s in the conversation, but there’s not enough demand yet to be actionable. I expect that to change in the next three to five years, however.”
On Wednesday, representatives from Gideon International visited Culpeper’s Hampton Inn, delivering enough Bibles to supply one to every guest room.
“It was really neat,” Derflinger said. “They gave a prayer, and blessed the hotel, which was especially nice. Prayers are always appreciated.”