By Alecia Reid

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — It’s an historic day in Camden on Friday. The city is celebrating the opening of its first new hotel in more than 50 years.

The Hilton Garden Inn will not only be great for the local economy, with job opportunities but also a tourist attraction.

People can come in and have a drink at the bar, or have dinner, and check out the waterfront.

The ribbon-cutting happened with Mayor Frank Moran surrounded by the general manager, employees and others.

The Hilton Garden Inn has been under construction for about two years, with a pause earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s wide open to celebrate, whether it’s a wedding, whether it’s welcoming folks from out of the country, out of the state here to our Camden waterfront, showing them what we’ve done here in the city, and what we’ve done transforming our city.

The 180 rooms here are now available to the public, and what’s great about the new space, is the job opportunities created for locals, which is about 50% of the staff.

“This is fantastic for the city. We’re just one of many corporations that have come down to the waterfront, the whole park development. We provide something that other corporations don’t provide, which is lodging,” Bill Kao, the hotel’s general manager, said. “We are beyond thrilled to be able to offer something that the local communities can come in to eat, to dine. Families from out of state can stay here now in Camden, instead of going to Philadelphia, Mount Laurel, or Cherry Hill.”

The hope is that the hotel will help boost the local economy.

“I used to work in another hotel. They closed because of the pandemic. They’re still closed so that’s why I decided to apply for this job,” Maria Zambrana said.

While the Camden waterfront has seen a drastic decrease from the 3 million yearly visitors, the Hilton Garden Inn’s amenities will hopefully attract not only tourists but locals as well.

“I watched this building from groundbreaking until now and I want to be one of the first people to eat here,” Camden resident Joe Incandela said.

The hotel is opening at a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, but the mayor says this is a long-term investment by Hilton, that will be beneficial for the community in the long run.

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