Utah may become the site for a regional reservation and marketing center for Holiday Inn hotels, employing up to 400 telephone operators.

"Utah is being considered along with several sites in the Rocky Mountain region. It will be a week or two before a decision is made," Kris Stewart, spokeswoman for the international hotel chain, told the Deseret News.She declined to say what other locations are under consideration or what chances Utah has of landing the center. But a newsletter from the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce indicated the Wasatch Front is a top contender.

"(Holiday Inn) has been looking at the Salt Lake area for over two years and it appears that Utah will be selected as the site," the Chamber's recent "Executive Report" said.

Holiday Inn has regional reservation centers in Chicago and in Raleigh, N.C., employing from 250-400 telephone operators depending on the season, Stewart said, noting the proposed center would most likely employ the same number, with the highest employment during summer season.

Employees would receive calls from customers calling a toll free 800 number to make reservations at Holiday Inns in the West. Stewart said the center would not handle reservations for the other hotel divisions owned by Holiday Corp., based in Memphis, Tenn.

Holdings of the $2.4 billion Holiday Corp. include Holiday Inns, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inns, Homewood Suites and Harrah's Hotel and Casinos. Holiday Corp. owns and franchises its lodging businesses with some Holiday Inns and an Embassy Suites franchises in Utah.

For the reservation and marketing center, Stewart said the company wants to lease an existing facility and not build.

If Holiday Inn selects Utah for the center, it would be the third national firm to locate a regional telemarketing operation in the state in less than a year, resulting in an estimated 2,000 jobs.

Sears is building a regional center in Provo to receive catalog phone orders, and J.C. Penney Co. is expected to announce later this month that it will locate a phone order center in Bountiful. Each operation will employ 800 people.

Companies say they are attracted to Utah because of the state's vast, productive labor pool and comparatively low wage rates.

Other phone order and telemarketing operations in Utah include NICE Corp., Automated Phone Exchange, Anser-Fone Inc., Fidelity Investments, Eastern Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Express.