But instead of making a big deal about things, the hotel's managers and staffers on Friday tried to treat their inaugural guests as if they were part of a long line of travelers, said Jennifer M. Keef, the hotel's sales director.

"We try to make it seamless," she said. "We want them to feel like we've been open for 1,000 years."

Recent numbers show that Embassy Suites Ontario Airport opened in a much healthier climate for inland hoteliers than last year. The new hotel is at 3663 E. Guasti Road, east of Haven Avenue and south of the 10 Freeway.

Through April, hotels in the Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga market were 66.9 percent occupied, a 5 percent jump over the same period last year, said Bruce Baltin, a senior vice president at the Los Angeles office of Colliers-PKF Consulting. Average room rates have climbed by $1.14 over the year to $86.83.

"What it shows is that the market is recovering," Baltin said. "It's not recovering as fast as people would like, but it is recovering."

Scott Gladney, the general manager of Four Points by Sheraton Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga, affirmed business has gradually improved this year, although he expects a slow summer.

"Since ... January, everyone's doing a little better with occupancy and rate," he said. "We're starting to get happier."

One drawback, however, is that Auto Club Speedway will not host a second NASCAR race this year, Gladney said. NASCAR elected to move the Speedway's October race to a track in Kansas.

Like many other hotels surrounding L.A./Ontario International Airport, the new Embassy Suites primarily serves overnight guests on short stays, Keef said, noting that the average stay in the local market is 1.5 nights.

For weekends, however, the hotel's marketing focus shifts from the business traveler to a set of recreational guests known to hoteliers as SMERF - social/sports, military, education, religious and fraternal.

Whether traveling for business or fun, guests at the new hotel would first see the building as a beige and green-glass edifice that towers above the freeway and some of Ontario's still-undeveloped land.

On the inside, the hotel's atrium is decorated with marble floors and a crimson mobile that calls to mind the work of artist Alexander Calder.

Embassy Suites Ontario Airport's restaurant, Chaffey's, is also open, but its main ballroom, as of Tuesday, remained under construction.

Keef said the ballroom will be ready for weddings and other events by Friday.

"Our wedding response has been huge," she said. "We've had two inquiries in the last 12 hours."

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