[caption id="attachment_55027" align="alignright" width="270" caption="John Muir Inn"][/caption]

NAPA -- The John Muir Inn has been purchased for $6.8 million by local hotelier Rick Swig, who plans to renovate and rebrand the 60-room property as the Napa Winery Inn.

Mr. Swig, who also owns the Harvest Inn in St. Helena, said he will invest another $1 million into the property at 1998 Trower Ave. 

Under the new ownership, the hotel will be affiliated with Choice Hotels as a Quality Inn. The previous owners, who did not live in the Napa Valley, operated the property independently.

Mr. Swig is on the board of the Napa Valley Destination Council. 

Occupancy at the hotel was at about 35 percent, compared with 70 percent across the county, Mr. Swig said, a factor he attributed to the lack of branding. The hotel will remain open during renovations, which will likely include new carpets and drapes, landscaping improvements, flat-screen TVs and wireless technology. The improvements could be completed by as early as June 30, according to Mr. Swig, who said room rates will fall in the $150 to $160 range.

A new general manager, Bruce Bitton, has been hired and most of the hotel's employees will remain. Choice Hotels International, which franchises more than 6,100 hotels across the world, could be appealing for travelers who use  reward programs and who may be familiar with the chain. 

In March, the most recent month for available statistics, occupancy rates in Napa were up by 11.9 percent from the previous month, according to Smith Travel Research. Average daily room rates were up by 9 percent over the previous month, and revenue per available room was up significantly, by 22 percent.Year to date, occupancy was up 8.5 percent, average daily room rates up by5 percent and RevPAR by 14 percent. And over the year, occupancy was up by 5.6 percent, ADR was barely budged by .6 percent and RevPAR was up 6.2 percent.