HOTELS NYU notebook: Outlooks bullish, pipelines more robust

Based on the optimism expressed during one-on-one interviews during the 44th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference this week at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, you’d hardly know there was ever a global pandemic.

STR revised its 2022 forecast upward, most every operator was optimistic about performance through the end of this year, and developers were eager to talk about their revitalized development pipelines.

An estimated 1,500 people gathered for the 44th NYU hotel investment conference

HOTELS sat down with several developers and brand leaders to find out what was new and learn more about their plans. Here is what we learned:

United Properties’ Scott Peterson, co-developer of the new US$450 million-plus, 37-story RBC Gateway building in Minneapolis, says the Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis, which opened June 1, is perfectly positioned to own the luxury market in the Twin Cities. While there are some nice boutique properties in town, the 222-key Four Seasons, which includes 34 residences, is the only true 5-star in town. As the home of multiple Fortune 500 companies, the hotel and its expected US$500 ADR is positioned to be the go-to destination for executive travelers, sports teams and entertainers, as well as locals looking for a luxury staycation.

Highlights of the mixed-use project include three restaurants, including a signature Mediterranean-style concept, a café by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen, a rooftop pool with F&B amenities and a grab and go in the office lobby. The hotel is in the same building as the new North American headquarters of RBC Wealth Management and with 99% of its offices leased will be busy and full of life. Peterson, United Properties Vice President, Hospitality & Office Development, says the group is currently looking at more mixed-use opportunities in Denver, Colorado, and Austin, Texas.

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Honolulu-based Outrigger Hospitality’s President and CEO Jeff Wagoner says “rate won’t retreat” anytime soon, which bodes well for the 33-hotel portfolio as it continues to grow, adding three management deals in French Polynesia and perhaps five in total by the end of the year.

Wagoner added, that like many others, rate is driving business and that summer will be “gangbusters.” He says July occupancy in Hawaii should hit 90%. Elsewhere, Outrigger’s properties in Thailand are starting to show signs of recovery, while the Maldives continues to be a strong market.

Wagoner says Outrigger is looking hard to acquire resort properties in Miami, Florida, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and southern California. He says Outrigger is happy to partner with owners who need help getting projects done, need some capitalization or need renovations.

Outrigger recently acquired a 5-star resort in the Maldives, expanding its signature cultural experiences and bringing barefoot luxury to the Indian ocean. It also celebrated the grand reopening of its flagship resort, Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort in Waikiki, following an extensive US$80 million transformation.

Wagoner also said a new company focus is coming in response to a commissioned study by consultancy McKinsey about Outrigger’s brand perception, voice, imagery, and consumer expectations. As part of a five-year strategic plan, Outrigger is in the process of redesigning its website, as well as its messaging and marketing strategy that will be more easily replicable across the portfolio. The plan will be presented to the board for approval next month.

Davidson Hospitality Group Chief Executive Officer and President Thom Geshay told HOTELS he expects to grow by 10-plus properties in 2022 with about 15 coming in and maybe five falling out of the 78-hotel portfolio. This comes after the group added some 23 properties in 2021 and 58 over the last 2.5 years – often more complex resort assets.

After adding seven branded properties to its management portfolio about a month ago when it was selected by Starwood Capital Group, Davidson is looking for more growth in the Caribbean and European markets, according to Geshay

F&B is a huge highlight of performance by the group that has its own 187-unit restaurant group. GOP across all of its F&B (about 50-50 split between catering and restaurants) stands at about 32.5%. Overall TrevPAR growth for the group is at 19% driving predominantly by F&B performance and about a 17% rate increase driven by its leisure properties. Business travel, Geshay said, remains down about 14% to 2019 levels.

Selina CEO Rafi Museri with HOTELS Editor in Chief Jeff Weinstein at NYU

Selina Co-Founder and CEO Rafi Museri, along with head of Corporate Global Development Sam Khazary, continue to utilize about US$350 million in dry powder to develop its portfolio, which at the beginning of the year sat at 20,751 available bed spaces at 95 global locations.

With a growing pipeline that more recently stood at about 60 additional locations, the latest properties to open were in Morocco and Washington, D.C. (its seventh in the U.S.).

The group finished 1Q22 with about US$40 million in revenue, a 150% jump year-over-year. Museri added that he is confident Selina will reach corporate profitability early next year. At the unit level, profitability is there now, he added.

Museri also boasts 60% direct booking and a 30% retention rate of its global nomad clientele.

In December of last year, Selina entered into a business combination agreement with BOA Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: BOAS) that resulted in Selina becoming a publicly listed company.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Chief Development Officer Chip Ohlsson is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its upscale soft brand Trademark, which has about 145 open and another 75 in the pipeline (35 deals in the last 18 months).

Ohlsson told HOTELS the momentum the brand is experiencing on the development front is making a significant contribution to the company’s overall development pipeline of over 1,500 hotels.  “And it is not slowing down,” he said.

He said Trademark, which has pivoted to a set of full franchise services as opposed to an a la carte offering, has upcoming openings in key markets such as Miami and Key Largo, Florida; Cleveland, Ohio; and Kissimmee, Florida.

On the radar for growth include global markets such as Germany, Mexico and Asia Pacific.

Ohlsson also updated the progress of the economy extended-stay brand still dubbed Project Echo, suggesting more territorial deals are being signed. With an initial pipeline of 50 deals, he says the brand is beating initial growth expectations. The first Echo project is expected to be under construction by August with another two following in September.

With 60 upscale Cambria-branded hotels open, 23 under construction and 40 more fully executed deals, Janis Cannon, senior vice president of upscale brands for Choice Hotels International, talked about the launch of a custom, 4-story stick construction prototype for the brand. She said it requires fewer FTEs, development costs are less on a smaller footprint and should average around 111 keys.

Ten deals for the new prototype (primarily in secondary markets) have been executed and there have been four ground breaks in the past eight day.

Cannon said Cambria led upscale performance nine of 12 months last year, indexing at 100-plus points. She pointed to strong weekend performance as part of the reason for the strong numbers. In fact, the Louisville, Kentucky, property was running a US$800 rate during Kentucky Derby weekend.

Among innovations: Texting for on-demand housekeeping, a more limited F&B menu and alcohol sales in the grab and go marketplace with wine splits selling very well.

Today, 43% of Cambria hotels have electronic charging stations, which Cannon points to as a competitive advantage, and some hotels are piloting solar energy solutions.

The US$2,500 a night Chatwal Lodge within The Chapin Estate, a 2,500-acre gated residential community north of New York City, in Bethel, New York.

New York City-based Dream Hotel Group, led by veteran hotelier and CEO Jay Stein, continues to add to its eclectic collection of properties for its Dream Hotels, Unscripted Hotels, The Chatwal and new By Dream Hotel Group brands. Today, Dream has 15 hotels open and another 25 locations in various stages of development across the globe.

The latest signing earlier this month came from the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia with the announced development of the 90-room Cas en Bas Beach Resort by Dream Hotel Group set to open in March 2023. The development by Edward Wellington, CEO of UK-based resort company Wellington Estates, marks the group’s first location in Saint Lucia and its second By Dream Hotel Group branded property in the Caribbean, following The Bight by Dream Hotel Group in Turks and Caicos.

Previously announced By Dream Hotel Group projects also include Emma & Elissa in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and the company plans to announce future By Dream Hotel Group locations in new and emerging destinations worldwide in the coming months.

Additionally, Dream recently announced Dream Frisco, a 200-key hotel as part of the new 230-acre Firefly Park mixed-use development in the historic town of Frisco, Texas. Stein said further hotels are going to be developed at the site, which Dream might play a role, including F&B concepts outside of the hotel spaces.

An initial 188 Unscripted rooms are coming to Belgium are coming online in a couple of months with another 400 rooms to come at an 800-acre development being repositioned by a local developer.

Dream is also developing 60-room property in Valle de Guadalupe, the wine-growing district of south of Tijuana, Mexico.

Dream will break ground in July for a 550-key property in Las Vegas set to open in about 2.5 year on land that sits across from the Mandalay Bay.

Deals slowed by the pandemic are also coming back online for Dream, including properties in Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; and Palm Springs, California. Stein said some of the deals now have reduced key counts and added condominium components to help them pencil out.

Dream is also developing 60-room property in the wine-growing district south of Tijuana, Mexico.

Lastly, the group just opened its 10-cabin retreat, The Chatwal Lodge, an all-inclusive, ultra-luxury property with a US$2,500 ADR located within The Chapin Estate, a 2,500-acre gated residential community just 90 miles north of New York City in the town of Bethel, New York. Stein says an 11th key will be added soon and will eventually be followed by another seven cabins.

Agnès Roquefort, chief development officer at Accor, talked to HOTELS about the company’s ongoing, aggressive focus on luxury and lifestyle development, stating the group is now the second largest player in those space in North America region with its brands that include Fairmont, Hoxton, sbe, Faena, Mondrian, Sofitel and others.

More specifically, Roquefort said Faena is under discussion for a project in New York City with another eye on opportunities across EMEA.

In total, she said another 30 luxury and lifestyle properties will open for Accor in 2022.

Accor’s recently announced foray into all-inclusive is also front and center with Roquefort saying some 50 properties, led by the Rixos brand, are in the pipeline. She added that all-inclusive opportunities will be considered across many of the brand’s portfolio, including Fairmont, Sofitel, Pullman, Movenpick and others.

Also on trend, Accor is focused on growing its collection brand, MGalley and the newly announced Emblems brand. Roquefort said 110 MGallery properties are open with another 60 planned, while the first Emblems properties is due to be announced later this year. Most of these deals will come via conversion, she added.