When news broke in early February that British real estate tycoons David and Simon Reuben had acquired for about €100 million (US$111.35 million) the 93-room Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venice and launched a strategic partnership with Baglioni Hotels & Resorts to grow the long-standing Italian hotel company, it marked yet another interesting play for the traditionally non-branded and slow to develop hotel market.
Activity has been heating up over the past several months, however, with news about multiple players entering and hoping to dominate the market. In December, Madrid-based European private equity real estate manager Azora acquired Bluserena SPA, the second largest resort operator in Italy with 13 all-inclusive hotels with a total of 4,200 keys. The objective is to double the size of the company in the next five years with focus on the Italian leisure market (sun and beach; mountain resorts).
Javier Arus, partner and head of the hotels division at Azora, talked to HOTELS about how Italy is the third largest touristic market in Europe, and on top of its high international demand it also has a very large and resilient domestic leisure market. “From an ownership and operator perspective, the Italian market is one of the most highly fragmented markets in Europe – there are not many hotel operators and many resorts are in the hands of families. These factors represent a clear opportunity to build a platform and help develop the presence of institutional investors in such an attractive market.”
Arus said Azora realized that on top of the strong and resilient domestic market there were opportunities to build on Italy’s international demand, too. “The biggest challenge for the company will be to develop a significant international demand and extend the season in some of its resorts, which have traditionally focused solely on attracting domestic tourists,” Arus said.
No doubt, the global hotel players recognize the same opportunity and news just broke this week about Hilton signing of a franchise agreement with Hotel Ambasciatori Srl to open Ambasciatori Venice Mestre, Tapestry Collection by Hilton in the Mestre area of Venice.
At the same time, global developer Hines and Accor announced plans this week to develop a Novotel hotel at MilanoSesto in Milan via an agreement with the “Unione 0” real estate fund.
With all this in mind, HOTELS reached out to tight-lipped Baglioni to learn more about its plans to develop with the Reuben brothers, who last year invested around US$3.8 billion in the U.S. and Europe, including acquisitions of the Surrey Hotel in New York and the Corinthia in Rome.
At the time of the tie-up between Baglioni and the Reubens, a spokesman for the Reubens, Jamie Reuben, said, “The acquisition of one of the leading luxury hotels in Venice plays perfectly into our wider strategy and complements our existing portfolio, which now also includes the famous La Palma Hotel in Capri. The investment further underlines our belief in the strength of the Venice market. We are also pleased to work with Baglioni Hotels & Resorts Group in developing their brand into new markets.”
Baglioni CEO Guido Polito added, “I am proud that such an important financial partner shares my vision for developing our brand in Italy and abroad and that they have recognized its value in the luxury hotel sector. This is a mark of the excellent work that has made the Baglioni brand a symbol of Italian hospitality over many years.”
This week, Baglioni told HOTELS they are very excited about expanding their brand, especially with current projects Baglioni Masseria Muzza, Puglia, which is set to open in May this year and Casa Baglioni, Milan, which is opening in late 2022. “As we continue to grow our brand, our partnership with the Reuben brothers will focus on mainly driving international expansion,” CEO Polito added.
Baglioni Masseria Muzza is an ancient, whitewashed building, dating back to the 17th century. Surrounded by five acres of countryside, the rooms are dotted around the central courtyard in former stables and barns. Some overlook the Alimini lakes, others enjoy sunset views over the expansive Mediterranean gardens, olive groves and Adriatic beyond.Due to open later this year, Casa Baglioni will be situated in the heart of Milan’s design district of Brera. Guests will be moments from the region’s many luxury boutiques, art galleries, antique markets and chic cocktail bars. Intimate in size, the property will offer 30 suites and rooms, a living area, a wine cellar and a restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Claudio Sadler.
Baglioni further stated growth will come from strict management and collaboration with the Reuben brothers.
At the moment, the brand’s primary focus is on expanding its resort presence in areas with stunning, natural beauty such as Baglioni’s location in the Maldives. “We also aim to develop experiential products specific to each destination, while staying true to the Baglioni brand,” Polito added. “This is a means of optimizing guest satisfaction but also guaranteeing that every stay feels intimate, luxurious, and memorable.”
Danilo Zucchetti, long-time general manager of the Villa d’Este Hotels group, in February was appointed vice president operations of Baglioni Hotels & Resorts. He will initially focus on closely following the Baglioni Hotel Luna and the Baglioni Resort Sardinia.