Hammondsport inn’s new owners have grand vision: See what’s new at Vinehurst Inn & Suites

A popular Finger Lakes inn has new owners and a new plan to welcome visitors year-round as Steuben County’s lodging industry rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vinehurst Inn & Suites, located on State Route 54 in Hammondsport, was recently purchased by Baldev and Neeta Kapoor. This is the first foray into hotel ownership for the couple, who previously owned a gas station and convenience store in Florida.

The Kapoors were attracted to the Inn’s place in the heart of the tourism scene in the Finger Lakes. Vinehurst Inn & Suites sits just a mile south of Keuka Lake and generates significant traffic from the region’s many wineries and the on-track action at nearby Watkins Glen International.

“This is a really nice area. We love the location,” said Neeta Kapoor. “It gets really busy in the summer. You can never go wrong with lakes and mountains. There’s so much to do out here.

“Wineries of course are the main attractions, but there’s other things that people come to do, like attend all kinds of festivals that are going on and the races at Watkins Glen. There’s camping and hiking trails. It’s a really good area for outdoor sports and outside activities.”

The Kapoors closed on the property April 1 for $1.2 million. The Inn was open seasonally for six to seven months under the previous ownership, but the Kapoors intend to keep it open year-round.

Vinehurst Inn & Suites features 26 guest rooms and two large suites for families and longer-term rentals.

“No two rooms are the same. They have different linens, different furniture,” said Kapoor. “The basics are the same but they don’t look the same. Each room has its own character. That’s what I love about this place.

“Repeat customers love their rooms and always ask for a specific room. It’s not a cookie cutter like franchises where everything is the same. It’s all different here. It keeps us busy and on our toes. We can be creative with it, too.”

The Kapoors have lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New Jersey since immigrating from India. The couple sold their Florida business and were traveling the world, returning to India before stops in London and Paris, when COVID-19 hit. The Kapoors then began exploring business opportunities in New York, ultimately discovering Vinehurst Inn & Suites in northern Steuben County.

The Kapoors have spent their first month of ownership making updates to each room. Some larger projects, like the installation of energy-efficient windows, will wait until after the surge in summer travel.

“This is a really good property and we want to keep it that way,” said Kapoor. “We plan to be here long-term and make a lot of new friends and new contacts.”

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How Steuben County’s lodging industry rebounded in 2021

Vinehurst Inn & Suites is part of a Steuben County lodging landscape that rebounded in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed travel in 2020.

Kevin Costello, president and CEO of the Steuben County Conference & Visitors’ Bureau, recently presented the bureau’s 2021 year-end data report.

Occupancy rates across Steuben County’s hotels never eclipsed 40% in 2020, according to the bureau’s data. The rate rebounded in 2021 as COVID restrictions eased and vaccines were made widely available. While the occupancy rate slightly trailed historical trends, it was over 40% for most of the year and peaked at around 65% in A

The average daily rate, meanwhile, returned to 2019 levels of around $100. Costello expects the market to surge in 2022.

“I don’t see (the average daily rate) going back down. I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for tourism,” said Costello. “I’m not sure the gas prices will have too big of an effect on us because we’re a drive market. We’re definitely a tank full of gas market. I think it will help.”

The bureau also tracks where those visitors are coming from. In 2021 in-state visitors narrowly edged the number of out-of-state visitors, 51%-49%, in a reversal of historical trends. The top-10 origin markets were the New York City metro region, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Elmira, Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Philadelphia and Boston.  

In addition to traditional inns and hotels, Steuben County also counted around 470 short term rentals marketed through outfits like AirBnB in 2021. The bulk of these offerings were concentrated around Keuka Lake in the Hammondsport and Pulteney areas, though Corning also had a strong market for short term rentals.

Nearly 12,400 bookings generated over $13.2 million in revenue. Total occupancy in 2021 actually declined from 2020, however. Costello noted that the average daily rate for short term rentals “skyrocketed to almost $350, $400 a night last year out at the lake.”

“I think they priced themselves out of the marketplace at the same time people were more comfortable with staying at traditional lodging establishments,” said Costello. “We saw fewer short term rental bookings and higher average daily rate, but I think the revenue kind of balanced out.”

Chris Potter can be reached at cpotter@gannett.com or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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