Briefs: Aimbridge forms operating units; White Lodging adds in Texas

Aimbridge creates 6 operating divisions: Aimbridge Hospitality, Plano, Texas, has formed six operational units with the intent to add value for Aimbridge owners by being more nimble and vertically focused. The operating divisions include Full Service (hotel and resort expertise at scale); Evolution Lifestyle (differentiated through curated experiences); Enhanced Select Service (focused service for continued success); Select Service (efficiencies to boost results for extended and short stays) and two geographically-focused units — EMEA (for expansion beyond the U.K. and Europe) and LatAm (to build a strong foundation in Mexico). Each unit will be led by divisional presidents. The six presidents are Rob Smith, Full Service division; Will Loughran, Evolution Lifestyle division; Ben Perelmuter, Enhanced Select Service division; Simon Mendy, Select Service division; David Anderson, EMEA; and Leandro Castillo, LatAm.

Rendering of the Kimpton hotel in San Antonio, Texas

Kimpton adds in Texas: White Lodging, Merrillville, Indiana, will develop and manage a Kimpton-branded hotel set to open in the central business district of San Antonio, Texas, in 2024. HKS Architects and KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group will provide architectural and design services. The hotel will be the first Kimpton-branded property from IHG in White Lodging’s portfolio. The 347-key hotel will be partly new-build and partially readapted from an 1850s schoolhouse. Two adjacent buildings will be converted to feature a high-end restaurant, lobby bar and hotel suites, with a courtyard bridging the two historic buildings. When it opens, the hotel will be Kimpton’s fourth one in Texas.

AG Group adds 5-star in Rome: AG Group, Rome, Italy, will develop a luxury hotel in Rome. A historic building, owned by Finanziaria Tosinvest of the Angelucci Group, will be converted into a 70-room hotel featuring a restaurant and terrace and will be AG Group’s first 5-star hotel in Rome. The building will be leased in a joint venture between AG Group and Gruppo Rossifin. The building last housed the Italian Banking Association and was the former national headquarters for Italy’s Communist Party. The renovation will retain the building’s original architecture, including the red brick façade and historical elements, the entrance hall designed by Gio Pomodoro and the bust of Antonio Gramsci set in marble. AG Group has also relaunched AG Hotel Consulting, a unit of the group’s portfolio which offers services and solutions to support private hotels through their stages of growth and development. The most recent addition to the AG Hotel Consulting portfolio includes Hotel Villa Athena and Oasi di Kufra in Italy’s Agrigento and Sabaudia, respectively.

Värde’s US$50M loan to Steve Hermann Hotels: Steve Hermann Hotels, Santa Barbara, California, has secured a US$50 million debt package from Värde Partners, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the acquisition and refurbishment of the 82-room Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Värde Partners has provided a first-mortgage loan to acquire the luxury, boutique resort after Hermann purchased it for US$43 million in May from JMI Realty, Austin, Texas. The acquisition closed in June and the deal was part of the 16 transactions worth US$747 million of commercial real estate loans that Värde Partners closed in the first half of this year. Part of the loan proceeds will  be used to finance a “top-to-bottom” US$15 million renovation to reposition the resort as an exclusive and prominent destination in California. The non-recourse floating-rate debt, which provided 85% of the total costs, including the refurbishments, was priced in the mid-7% range.

Holiday Inn Express to India: IHG Hotels & Resorts has signed a management agreement with Dahej Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of Mumbai, India-based Karmvir Group, for a new hotel in the state of Gujarat. The Holiday Inn Express Dahej Bharuch Road will be 120-key, new-build hotel located on Dahej Bharuch main road, near Dahej Port city, and will open by the first quarter of 2025. The hotel will drive IHG’s growth in secondary markets. IHG currently has 44 hotels operating across five brands in South West Asia and a pipeline of 37 hotels slated to open in the next two to three years.

IHG adds Crowne Plaza in Bangladesh: IHG Hotels & Resorts has signed an agreement with Dhaka, Bangladesh-based Doreen Hotels & Resorts to open Crowne Plaza Dhaka Gulshan in Bangladesh by the end of the year. The hotel is spread across two sites, the first is in the mixed-use tower block with 119 keys, while the second tower includes 30 suites with independent facilities. The hotel will also feature an all-day dining restaurant, three specialty restaurants, outdoor pools, lounges, gyms, a banquet hall and two meeting rooms. Crowne Plaza Dhaka Gulshan will be IHG’s third property in Dhaka, along with the InterContinental and Holiday Inn hotels in Dhaka’s old business district.

Equinox Hospitality acquires 4 in Texas: Equinox Hospitality has acquired four properties in Texas from Sonesta International Hotels Corp., Newton, Massachusetts. The four properties — Sonesta ES Suites Dallas Richardson, Sonesta Select Dallas Richardson, Sonesta Simply Suites Dallas Richardson and Sonesta Simply Suites Fort Worth Fossil Creek — total 463 keys. The properties are operated by Equinox Hotel Management.

Karisma, Margaritaville new Island Reserve: Karisma Hotels & Resorts, Miami, Florida, and Margaritaville, Orlando, Florida, will open the third Island Reserve-branded property, Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Maya in Mexico in early 2023. The resort will be the brand’s first adults-only, all-inclusive property comprising 355 suites within 13 categories, nine dining outlets, three swimming pools, two pickleball courts, a spa and the first LandShark Brewery in Mexico.

Moxy Hotels launches AR experience: Marriott International’s Moxy Hotels has launched the ‘Moxy Universe, Play Beyond’ augmented reality experience in 12 Moxy hotels across Asia Pacific. Guests will be able to explore the Moxy Universe through their own avatars from July 12 till December 31. Guests can access the universe from their mobile devices to personalize their avatars before arriving in-person to these hotels. Once they check-in at the Bar Moxy, guests can immediately enter the Moxy Universe by scanning a QR code and unlock at least five challenges and win prizes. The avatar will also double up as a workout buddy during exercise and guests can work out with their avatar at the hotels’ 24-hour Fitness Center.

US air traffic passenger enplanements up 107%: The U.S.-international air traffic enplanements surged 107% and stood at 19.08 million in June compared to June 2021, while enplanements reached 80% of pre-COVID volume, according to data released by the National Travel and Tourism Office. Non-U.S. citizen air passenger arrivals to the U.S. from foreign countries was +111% compared to June 2021 and stood at 3.53 million. Overseas visitor arrivals totaled 2.006 million, the eighth consecutive month in which overseas visitor arrivals were more than 1 million and the third consecutive month exceeding 2 million since February 2020. U.S. citizen air passenger departures from the U.S. to foreign countries totaled 6.36 million, +108% compared to June 2021 and only -8% compared to June 2019. The leading countries were Mexico (3.23 million), Canada (2.1 million), the U.K. (1.67 million), Germany (934,000) and the Dominican Republic (893,000). Air passenger travel between the U.S. and Europe rose 443% to 6.4 million passengers, surged 25% to 4.67 million passengers from June 2021 in South/Central America/Caribbean and was up 257% over June 2021 to 1.06 million passengers in Asia.

 Airlines hinder European travel recovery: The recovery of the European tourism industry has slowed as airlines failed to adequately prepare for the revival in travel creating staff shortages, as per latest research by GlobalData. The chaos at several European airports is expected to inhibit growth as cancellations and queues are becoming norms. International departures from European destinations is projected to reach 69% of the pre-pandemic levels this year. Industrial disputes and staffing crisis have been a deterrent in welcoming travelers. Other factors — inflation, increasing cost of living and the Russia-Ukraine conflict — are also likely to significantly impact travel demand. Airports like London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol have asked airlines to reduce flights, while many have culled their schedules which has affected millions of holidaymakers. British Airways has canceled 13% of its summer schedule and will be reducing another 10,300 short-haul flights up to October-end.

IHG launches redesigned app: IHG Hotels & Resorts has unveiled a new, redesigned IHG One Rewards app, which provides access to its 17 brands, over 6,000 hotels and new One Rewards loyalty program. The app will provide information about the best deals and exclusive benefits, enable guests to book a room in seconds and manage their stays in one place. Guests can access a digital concierge, track their progress towards the next loyalty milestone and add their IHG One Rewards card to their Apple or Google Wallet from the app. Drawing inspiration from inside and outside the travel industry and incorporating feedback from hotel teams, owners and guests, over 100 upgrades were made to the new app.

Indian hotel sector recovery outlook: The Indian hotel industry’s margins and revenues will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022-2023 despite the potential impact on demand caused by future waves of COVID, according to independent ratings agency ICRA. Domestic leisure and transient travel are expected to drive demand, with a gradual recovery in foreign tourist arrivals and business travel. Premium hotel occupancy across India is projected to be 68% to 70% for FY2023, while ADR will hover between Rs.5,600-5,800 (US$70.52-73.04). India’s hotel sector saw a healthy start to FY2023, with 56% to 57% occupancy in premium hotels in Q1 FY23, rising 40% to 42% from FY22 and inching close to the pre-pandemic occupancy of 60% to 62% in Q1 FY20.  Demand for hotels was led by leisure, transient passengers, MICE/weddings and pick up in foreign tourist arrivals and business travel. Mid-scale hotels have been reporting slower recovery due to their dependence on business travel and cost inflation.