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Northwest Arkansas National Airport could host a hotel on site for the first time under several possible plans discussed by airport administrators today.

Andrew Branch, the airport’s chief business development officer, said administrators are interested in a hotel on the east side of the airport’s loop that’s easy to spot as people drive toward the Alice L. Walton Terminal. There are two potential sites there.

Members of the airport’s business development committee seemed just as interested in Branch’s third suggested site just south of the airport’s parking deck. The site would have the benefit of the parking deck, which would provide a way for people to walk from the hotel to the airport’s terminal without being exposed to the weather.

Airport administrators plan to make a Request for Proposals (RFP) available to the public in April or May, inviting hotel operators to propose placing their hotels on any of the three sites. XNA will evaluate those proposals.

Aaron Burkes, the airport’s CEO, theorized that business travelers might use an on-site hotel if they have an early morning flight. They could drive to the airport the night before their departure, turn in their rental car that evening, and then walk to the terminal the next morning, he suggested.

Opened in 1998, XNA for its first seven years was a 20-minute drive from the nearest hotels in Bentonville and Rogers. That changed when Wingate in 2005 opened a 100-room hotel that’s just 2 miles north of the airport, and it remains the only hotel in close proximity to XNA.

While the Wingate has served as a place where flight crews can spend the night in Northwest Arkansas, some airlines choose to place their crews at sites in Bentonville and Rogers so they’d be closer to amenities such as restaurants.

There have been conversations in the past about a hotel being placed on airport property, including in 2011. A story published in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in mid-2019 described a hotel as being one of the projects on XNA’s “wish list.”

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock last year reached a deal for a hotel to be built on that airport’s property for the first time. Construction of that Hampton Inn & Suites starts this year and is expected to be complete in 2023.