HotelNewsNow.com each week features a news roundup from a different region of the world. Today’s review covers the Americas.
Hotels in Americas report strong metrics in March
The Americas region recorded positive results in the three key performance metrics when reported in U.S. dollars for March 2012, according to data compiled by STR and STR Global, respective parent and sister companies of HotelNewsNow.com.
The Americas region reported a 3.8% increase in occupancy to 63.7%, a 3.5% gain in average daily rate to $109.06 and a 7.5% jump in revenue per available room to $69.49.
Among the region’s key markets, Sao Paulo (+6.4 percent to 70.8%), and Vancouver, British Columbia (+6.4% to 65%), reported the largest occupancy increases for the month. Santiago, Chile, fell 1.5% in occupancy to 83.3%, posting the largest decrease in that metric, followed by Mexico City with a 1% decrease to 66.6%.
In first quarter 2012, the region’s occupancy rose 3.6% to 57.1%, its ADR was up 3.7% to $106.83 and its RevPAR increased 7.5% to $60.95.
Hyatt realigns in effort to lift performance
Executives of Hyatt Hotels Corporation are restructuring the company this year in an effort to increase performance and effectiveness, CEO Mark Hoplamazian said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call. The reorganization includes a realignment of the company’s operations and development teams, and several senior management changes.
Most notable is the departure of Hyatt’s CFO Harmit J. Singh, who will remain in his position until 15 August 2012 and then take on the role in an executive VP position until 31 December. He will then move on to new opportunities. When asked why he is leaving the company, Singh said: “Mark (Hoplamazian) felt it beneficial to have someone with deeper hotel operational experience … So I think on that basis concluded that it’s probably best to pursue other opportunities after a transition period.”
Gebhard F. Rainier, the company’s managing director of Europe, Africa and Middle East, will move to the CFO position effective 15 August.
Virgin begins construction in Chicago
Virgin Hotels is expected to start construction in May on its plan to convert an outdated office building into a 250-room hotel, according to Crain’s Chicago. The 136,000-square-foot project is expected to include construction of pools and saunas in addition to basic renovation. New York-based Virgin is redeveloping the 27-story property, formerly known as the Old Dearborn Bank Building, with Chicago-based John Buck Company. The Chicago hotel is part of an ambitious plan by Virgin Hotels to roll out 25 hotels nationwide.
Business travelers going rogue
U.S. business travelers have more control of their own bookings than ever before, which means hoteliers should think outside of corporate travel policies and consider the end user, according to PhoCusWright research. “You have to think of them as free agents,” said Carroll Rheem, senior director of research at PhoCusWright, during a webinar titled, “The U.S. Business Traveler: Managed, Unmanaged and Rogue.”
Whereas the focus in the past rested primarily on travel managers because they were the decision-makers, today hoteliers must place greater emphasis on the travelers themselves, she said. For one thing, unmanaged business travelers—those who aren’t constrained by a corporate travel manager—make up approximately 70% of the market, Rheem said, citing numbers from a recent special project PhoCusWright conducted.
For another, most business travelers lack a travel planning routine, which suggests hoteliers have an opportunity to provide a better booking platform to capture market share, she said. Only 29% of business travelers have a booking routine. “Even among the managed group the response is only 32%,” Rheem said. “… This says there are a lot of opportunities for new development and openness to trying new business models and trying new features. It also says to me there are a lot of problems to be solved.”
Marriott’s Brown eyes expansion opportunities
Marriott International is positioned to include just about any hotel in the U.S. in its portfolio. There is one void, though. Liam Brown, the company’s COO for select-service and extended-stay hotels for the Americas region said he wouldn’t mind to see a brand specifically for conversion properties in the select-service segment.
“We have looked at that, and we continue to look at it,” Brown said during an interview conducted during the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference. “Part of our challenge is you have to clearly define what that space is. We’ve looked at the budget place, and it’s a tough business.
“But I would never say never,” he added. “When we deflag a hotel, we essentially create some of our competitors, and if we can figure out a way to keep that in-house that would be a good thing. But that has to be a good value proposition; there has to be a good brand-equity piece. It has to make meaningful sense from a consumer perspective and a brand perspective. … We continue to look at it and try to see where the opportunities are.”
Regardless of the outcome of that exploration, there are plenty of other opportunities for the portfolio of hotels, according to Brown.
Hyatt buys Hotel Nikko Mexico; plans renovation, rebranding
A Hyatt Hotels affiliate intends to acquire the 756-room Hotel Nikko Mexico for $190 million from Japan-Mexico Hotel Investment Co., Ltd. The transaction is scheduled to close this month, and, upon closing, the hotel will be rebranded as Hyatt Regency Mexico City.
Hyatt will invest approximately $40 million in a three-year renovation to strengthen the hotel’s competitive position. Hyatt Regency Mexico City will have 734 rooms after combining some of the existing rooms into suites. The hotel’s amenities will include approximately 30,000 square feet of meeting and event space, two signature Japanese restaurants, a three-meal restaurant and lobby bar, a business center, a fitness center, tennis courts and a pool. This summer the hotel will complete an extensive six-year renovation program that includes the complete refurbishment of all the guestrooms as well as the addition of the two Japanese restaurants.
Best Western opens first Premier in Brazil
Best Western International continues its expansion in South America with the addition of the chain’s first Best Western Premier hotel in Brazil—the Best Western Premier Majestic Ponta Negra Beach. The 5-star hotel, adjacent to Ponta Negra beach in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, features 135 guestrooms and 15 suites, including several with sweeping views of Ponta Negra Beach.
With the opening of the Best Western Premier Majestic Ponta Negra Beach, Best Western now has 17 Best Western hotels in Brazil.
Westin debuts in Dominican Republic
The Westin brand will debut in the Dominican Republic in late 2013 at the PuntaCana Resort & Club. Construction on the Westin Puntacana Resort will begin this summer with an opening scheduled for the winter of 2013. The 204-room resort will offer 16 suites, meeting and wedding facilities, an expansive outdoor pool, poolside grill, lobby bar, cigar bar, children’s club and walking trails. Additional amenities will include a full-service spa, 24-hour business center and the brand’s signature Westin Workout gym experience.
Aimbridge to manage Best Western Premier in Haiti
Aimbridge Hospitality has been chosen to manage the new Best Western Premier Petion-Ville Hotel in Haiti. The Best Western Premier Petion-Ville, which is being built near Port-au-Prince, is the first U.S. branded and managed hotel in Haiti. The hotel is expected to open in the fall.
The Best Western Premier Petion-Ville is owned by Carabimmo, who is based in Haiti and saw a need for a higher-end hotel project to host business travelers in the Port-au-Prince area. The hotel is located about five miles from the airport in Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-Ville. The seven story, 106-room hotel will feature 2,000 square feet of meeting and event space to cater to business travelers.
Marriott will open second hotel In Colombia
Marriott Hotels & Resorts will open a new 170-room Marriott Hotel in Cali in 2014 under an agreement with Real Hotels and Resorts, S.A. and Grupo Poma. Situated in the heart of Colonia Granada, the 170-room Marriott Cali Hotel will feature a casual dining restaurant, a sushi bar and a great room. The hotel will have three different meeting spaces available, including a 4,900-square-foot ballroom.
Marriott International is currently represented in Colombia by the 264-room JW Marriott Hotel Bogota and the 239-room Bogota Marriott Hotel. Marriott will open the 278-room Cartagena Marriott Hotel in 2015.
Key openings, transactions
The 591-room Fairmont San Francisco sold for $200 million from Maritz, Wolff & Company and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to Woodbridge Capital.
The Seneca Hotel & Suites in Chicago was purchased by Waterton Associates LLC for $35.6 million.
King & Grove Hotels acquired the 64-room Hotel Williamsburg in New York for $33 million.
The Traymore Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, was acquired by Como Traymore for $17.5 million.
The 125-room Hyatt Place Riverside/Downtown in California opened. It will be managed by Rim Hospitality.
The 70-room Best Western Premier Ivy Inn & Suites opened near the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
The 64-room Country Inn & Suites by Carlson opened in April in Corpus Christi, Texas. It is owned and managed by TMI Hospitality.