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Hotel & Resort Beat

Beantown is ground zero for fancy NINE ZERO hotel

NINE ZERO, a 190-room boutique-style hotel, is on tap for Beantown. The hotel, named after the hotel's location on 90 Tremont Street, will be the first luxury hotel to be built from the ground up in Boston in nearly a decade. Boston-based Intercontinental Real Estate Corp. will be the owner of the hotel and Englewood, Colo.-based Destination Hotels & Resorts Inc. will manage the property, which is scheduled to open in May 2002.

Each guestroom in the 19-story hotel will have multiple phone lines, a fax, a copier, high-speed Internet access and a bathroom with stereo and TV speakers. Cambridge, Mass.-based Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, the project's architects, will design the lobby to be “Boston's living room,” with comfortable furniture, marble floors and dark wood trim.

The hotel will be located at the corner of Tremont and Bosworth streets, within walking distance to the financial, theater and nightclub districts. The owners want the hotel to match the best that international cities such as New York and London have to offer.

Nomura fends off rivals to acquire Le Meridien hotels

Tokyo-based Nomura International PLC has purchased the ritzy Le Meridien hotel group from London-based Compass Group for $2.6 billion. Hotel companies involved in the bidding for Le Meridien included Washington, D.C.,-based Marriott International.

The majority of the 120 hotels acquired in the transaction are located in Europe. U.S. properties include Le Meridien Chicago and Le Meridien Beverly Hills (Calif.). According to New York-based Insignia Hotel Partners, which advised Nomura in the deal, the acquisition is believed to be the largest hotel transaction ever in Europe, both in terms of the purchase price and the number of hotel rooms included in the deal. The transaction is expected to be completed this month.

The majority of the transaction was financed in a $2.1 billion sale-leaseback arrangement with the Royal Bank of Scotland, which purchased 12 hotels from Le Meridien.

Conventioneers, sports fans can pick between two new hotels in St. Louis next year

Washington, D.C.-based Marriott International is gearing up for a winter 2002 opening for a pair of hotels that will serve the America's Center convention complex and TransWorld Dome in St. Louis. The $270 million project includes construction of a 22-story, 916-room Renaissance Grand and renovation of the historic Lennox Hotel into a 165-room Renaissance Suites.

Dallas-based RTKL will provide architectural and preservation services for the project, which will restore the exterior and interior spaces of the existing hotel. Construction is under way on the project, which is a joint effort between Historic Restoration Inc. of New Orleans and St. Louis, and Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark Corp.

The project also will include 45,000 sq. ft. of ballroom/meeting space, a business center and street retail. The brick and cast-stone exterior of the new hotel is designed to match the style of the historic Lennox Hotel.

That's Entertainment: Caesars Palace plans 29-story, $475 million expansion

When one of the premier hotels in Las Vegas embarks on an expansion, you can bet it's going to be an ambitious project. With every hotel in Las Vegas attempting to outdo its neighbors, Caesars Palace is planning a $475 million expansion. The hotel's owner, Las Vegas-based Park Place Entertainment Corp., will build a 29-story, all-suites hotel tower with 900 units, boosting the hotel's room count to 3,350.

Scheduled for completion in 2004, the project also will include 50,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting rooms. The guestroom expansion coincides with plans for a new entertainment complex at the hotel that features a 4,000-seat replica of the Coliseum in Rome. The facility is slated to open in 2003 at a cost of $75 million. Park Place also has been busy renovating the hotel. The company recently built new facades for three of the original hotel towers, opened two new restaurants, remodeled 600 guestrooms and redesigned casinos.

Hilton's burgeoning Conrad brand opens first U.S. property at Waldorf

It looks like Conrad Hotels, a luxury division of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp., has picked a good place to open its first hotel in North America. The Conrad flag has been placed on The Waldorf Towers, a 180-room section of the famed Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The section now is called Waldorf Towers Conrad.

“This is a very important move for our brand, as this conversion is just one example of how we expect to grow Conrad Hotels' portfolio of luxury hotels around the world,” said Clem Barter, president of Conrad Hotels. The tower occupies floors 28 through 42 of the Waldorf-Astoria.

Established in 1985, Conrad Hotels operates 13 hotels in gateway cities of Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

The tide has turned: Two top analysts predict a plunge in hotel revenues

Two leading real estate analysts are predicting lean times ahead for the hotel industry. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, both based in New York, expect revenue growth to remain sluggish for the remainder of the year. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell sharply in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2000, a disappointing trend for an industry that experienced big revenue gains last year.

RevPAR dropped by 2.6% in April — the largest decrease in the past 10 years for that month. In its U.S. Lodging Industry Forecast, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that RevPAR will rise by 2.1% this year, compared with last year's 5.7% increase.

While RevPAR growth will be especially weak in 2001, the combination of a significant slowing in supply growth, together with a re-acceleration in demand growth, will allow the industry to recover its growth momentum in 2002,” said a hopeful Bjorn Hanson, global industry partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Based on those factors, the company predicts the industry to rebound with a 4.1% jump in RevPAR in 2002.

The shaky economy and a recent spike in new hotel construction leave Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown far less optimistic in its recent Hotel Construction Update. Portsmouth, N.H.-based Lodging Econometrics reported that the number of hotel rooms under construction or in permitting increased 13.6% as of March 31 compared with the same time last year.

The increase is a departure from the recent trend of slowing supply growth. The Deutsche Banc report notes that the “good news” of declining supply growth “has been at the heart of the recent strong performance of lodging stocks.” According to the company, the unwelcome jump in supply will contribute to a RevPAR decline in the second quarter that may last through the third quarter.

According to the Deutsche Banc report, several trends will lead to sluggish revenues for the industry in 2001 and 2002, including:

  • Corporate cutbacks in travel expenditures. “Corporate America did not attack the issue of travel expenditures until the start of this year, and the real impact did not broadly take hold until February and March. Many companies, particularly in financial services and other areas outside technology, have just begun to implement restrictive travel policies.”

  • The continuation of corporate travel cutbacks through at least the first quarter of 2002. “We believe there has been a major psychology shift in Corporate America and that expense management is here to stay for the foreseeable future. We had a 10-year-plus period of economic growth and a technology bubble to boot. Now we are in leaner times.”

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