Hospitality UpdateJanuary 1, 2016

A sampling of the most highly anticipated hotels and resorts for 2016. By
January 1, 2016

Hospitality Update

A sampling of the most highly anticipated hotels and resorts for 2016.

IFMM-2016-0102JanFeb-New_HotelsAt the November 2015 Hotel Experience trade show, held at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables, a meeting software developer, opined that new hotels catering to the luxury and group market will flourish in 2016, while others will lose business travelers and leisure travelers to sharing accommodations such as Airbnb and similar business models. Although the Airbnb model has proven to be a legitimate threat to hotels who target price-conscious individual travelers, it is the growth of the upscale, lifestyle boutique properties that has some sales managers in larger hotels concerned about their corporate accounts.

Even among insurance and financial meeting planners, there has been a sea change, with many beginning to pull away from some of the larger, traditional brand properties and leaning towards the new-build, millennial-driven categories, such as Marriott’s Edition and Moxy brands, Hilton’s Canopy brand, or Commune Hotels and Resorts’ Thompson and tommie brands. “Millennials simply see hotels differently,” said Philippe Cesson, CEO of Cesson 3.0, a social media specialist. “Thirty-six percent of millennials prefer working in the lobby of a hotel rather than their rooms.”

However things roll out in 2016, insurance and financial corporate planners will have many new deluxe hotels & resorts, large and small, new-builds and recently renovated, to consider in the year ahead.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the more intriguing and keenly anticipated new hotels for 2016.

Although new properties will be opening in almost every large and mid-size city in the country, it is New York City, Miami, Texas and the Midwest that will lead the way in new, upscale properties. For meeting planners, many of the cities mentioned below are now facing an oversupply situation, and with less inbound international business groups and conventions due to the strong U.S. dollar, planners can hope for a bit more rate flexibility from hotel sales managers.

New York City

The 686-room InterContinental New York Barclay hotel will reopen in April 2016, after a multiyear, top-to-bottom renovation. By spring, the property will have completely enhanced and expanded its group meeting space, restaurant, bar and lobby areas, and will reopen essentially as a new hotel.

Among the new-build 2016 properties in New York City that should attract planners is the SLS Park Avenue, with 190 rooms, a Philippe Starck-designed interior, and chef José Andrés’ F&B program, which includes a glamorous 14th-floor rooftop bar and the subterranean S Bar. The hotel, which is expected to open this summer, will be located at 444 Park Avenue South, in the fashionable NoMad neighborhood.

Another new property that will garner much attention when it opens this summer will be the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, a 185-room, Robert Stern-designed hotel located in New York’s trendy South Tribeca neighborhood and very close to the new Calatrava-designed Path station, World Trade Center, the Wall Street financial institutions and shopping. The new Four Seasons New York Downtown encompasses the first 22 floors of the building and includes Wolfgang Puck’s Cut steak house and bar, a full-service spa, 24-hour fitness facility, indoor pool and innovative, high-tech meeting spaces.

“With more than 6,000 sf of space, Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown will offer three adaptable function rooms, each with modern décor and double-height windows on two sides,” said Michael Law, director of sales and marketing for the property. “The 2,943-sf ballroom on the hotel’s second floor features windows that look out to Church and Barclay streets and the glass pillars of the WTC. Two beautifully appointed meeting rooms, 1,387 sf and 1,027 sf, are both divisible in two, and there is also a grand staircase from the lobby that leads up to the second floor event/function space.”

Commune Hotels and Resorts has been seeing more corporate group business in its design-friendly Thompson and tommie brands. In summer 2016, the colorful and eclectic tommie Hudson Square will open with 325 rooms on Hudson Street in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood. Although some insurance and financial meeting planners may shy away from this non-traditional section of southern Manhattan, others are discovering the benefits of upscale boutique properties in exciting urban neighborhoods.

Many guest rooms at tommie Hudson Square have Hudson River views, multifunctional furnishings, such as a convertible flip-down desk, a flexible open closet or an alcove bed perched against an expansive window. Rooms include “high-touch” materials such as solid walnut table tops and handmade porcelain tiles. The property is suitable for small corporate meetings with three meeting studios on the second floor, offering a combined total of 1,600 sf. Each meeting room holds eight people in a boardroom-style format, but when combined, a reception format holds 60, classroom setup 32, and theatre-style 40 persons. Each room also opens up onto a patio, and the rooftop, featuring indoor and outdoor space with full bar and food options, is bookable for events.

Brooklyn’s business and neighborhood revitalization, combined with its proximity to JFK International Airport and Manhattan has resulted in more high-end corporate meetings and conferences in this now-trendy New York City borough. Brooklyn’s largest hotel, the 667-room New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, is in the midst of a $43 million renovation project. Meeting space renovations were recently completed, and room redesign work will be finished by July 2016.

The property offers well-appointed rooms, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, and its guest rooms, among the largest in New York City, have great views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. The hotel has more than 40,000 sf of meeting and banquet space, including the 18,105-sf Grand Ballroom, and is close to the Barclays Center and the restored Brooklyn Navy Yard, both attractions offering unique offsite event options.


New hotels in Miami and Miami Beach will add a combined 1,600 new rooms to the area’s inventory during 2016, with three ultra-luxury properties accounting for about a third of the total. The new, 169-room (111 are suites) Faena Hotel Miami Beach, in the upscale Faena District, opened in December; the other Faena buildings in this sprawling, design-driven neighborhood project will open in 2016. Film director and producer Baz Luhrmann and his wife, the production and costume designer Catherine Martin, redesigned the Faena Hotel (the former historic Saxony Hotel) with a new 3,000-sf theater featuring live cabaret shows, a 22,000-sf Tierra Santa Spa, and a restaurant from Argentine chef Francis Mallmann called Los Fuegos, which includes an outdoor barbecue. The top two floors of the building are taken up by 13 deluxe penthouse residences.

For insurance and financial meeting planners with a sense of adventure (ok, adventure in ultra-luxurious, air-conditioned surroundings), note that Alan Faena, the project’s wealthy Argentine developer, has been working to turn the stretch of land between 32nd and 36th streets, on both sides of Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue, into a new cultural hub, modeling the $1 billion project after a similar neighborhood he built in the Puerto Madero neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The project eventually will include not only the hotel, but condos, retail, restaurants and the 42,565-sf, $150 million, multiuse Faena Forum, a venue to consider for exclusive receptions, board meetings and high-end social events. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, Faena Forum is an innovative, one-of-a-kind Miami Beach space that will surely gather much attention in 2016.

Miami’s Brickell district will become an even bigger meetings destination later this year when the SLS Brickell Hotel & Residences opens for business in fall 2016, the fourth Miami area property for the deluxe sbe hotel company. Like its new sister property, SLS Hotel New York, the SLS Brickell will reflect the design of Philippe Starck and the remarkable culinary talents of chef José Andrés. The Brickell property also will include the noted Miami-based chef Michael Schwartz. With 10,000 sf of Philippe Starck-designed event space, property-wide Wi-Fi and Web conferencing capability, catering specialists and a multilingual staff, the hotel will not only boast an upscale, stylish meetings venue, but an experienced SLS staff as well.

North of Miami the new $100 million, 400-room Hilton West Palm Beach opens January 27, 2016, and will be connected to the Palm Beach Convention Center by an enclosed walkway. The 12-story structure is a new-build and includes 24,000 sf of indoor event space, a boardroom, five meeting rooms, swimming pool and outdoor event lawns. The property is across the street from the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and the CityPlace shopping, dining and entertainment district. Executive rooms in the hotel offer access to the Executive Lounge, with free breakfast and snacks during the day.

Another anticipated Florida opening in 2016 is the new 1,000-room Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. Sapphire Falls will have a contemporary Caribbean theme and contain the largest convention space among the other Universal Orlando properties with 115,000 sf of meeting space, a 41,000-sf ballroom, 16 meeting rooms, 11,000 sf of outdoor meeting space and three dedicated meeting planner offices. It also will be linked by a short pedestrian bridge to the convention space at Universal’s Royal Pacific, its sister resort. The 1,000 spacious rooms and bathrooms at Sapphire Falls, including 83 suites, are part of three main towers and bring Universal Orlando’s total onsite hotel room count to 5,200. The pool area is 16,000 sf, the largest among Universal Orlando properties, and includes a white sand beach, a water slide and fire pits. Four food and beverage outlets, 24/7 room service and private dining venues suitable for high-end corporate meeting groups, also will be available when the property opens in July 2016.


Meeting planners with incentive groups or conferences are looking forward to the June 2016 opening of the new Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina. With 358 guest rooms and suites, the fifth Four Seasons Hawaiian resort will offer dramatic views of the beach and ocean, and will host groups of up to 600 indoors, or 900 participants using both the indoor and outdoor spaces. The five-star property will provide 16,874 sf of function space including the expansive Ocean Ballroom and five meeting rooms. Additional outdoor event space is available on the lawn and beach or can extend to the adjoining 10-acre Lanikuhonua Cultural Estate.

In addition to the modern, high-tech meeting facilities, the property will include five restaurants and lounges, four pools and five beaches, a multilevel Spa and Wellness Centre, tennis facilities and water­sports, and preferred access to the Ko Olina Golf Club.

“I heard that Four Seasons was opening a new property in Hawaii, and since I often use Hawaii, as well as Four Seasons properties, for incentive groups, I would certainly consider this property for a future group,” says Tawny Herron, CMP, CMM, corporate meeting and conference manager for the Standard Insurance Company in Portland, Oregon. “I like to use the deluxe, boutique hotels rather than a large resort if my group is small, but I will be using the Grand Hyatt Kauai (602 rooms) for a group in 2017, so it all depends on the group size. I also like to wait at least six months after a new property opens before I put a group there, but it’s always interesting to hear about new properties, and see if I can match them up with my upcoming incentive groups and conferences.”


The Southwest has had several exciting openings in 2015, with more planned for 2016. In the state capital, the JW Marriott Austin opened in February 2015, giving a nice jolt to that city’s downtown hotel capacity with its 1,012 rooms. Only 15 minutes from Austin International Airport, the property contains 120,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space, and easy access to the Austin Convention Center

In Houston, the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis Houston is expected to open in October. Located downtown, next to the George R. Brown Convention Center, the hotel will provide more than 100,000 sf of meeting space, including a 39,000-sf ballroom, the city’s largest. There will be plenty of high-tech amenities in rooms and meeting spaces, a 5,000-sf spa and a fitness center the same size, a rooftop infinity pool and a state of Texas-shaped lazy river (pictured top) that will sit 110 feet above the ground on the amenity deck. A two-story sports bar will attract business and leisure guests as well as incentive groups.

The Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center will open in 2016 within the upscale Summit at Rivery Park development, a mixed-use project located 29 miles north of Austin (30 minutes by car). The 224-room property will feature a 30,000-sf conference center, a signature restaurant, destination bar, outdoor pool and a large health and fitness center.

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa is expected to open in mid-2016 with 201 bungalow-style guest rooms, a full-service spa and salon, and more than 20,000 sf of meeting and event spaces, all on 22 acres of land less than two miles from Old Town and Fashion Square shopping mall.

Ritz-Carlton and Five Star Development Resort Communities will develop a new resort and residences in Paradise Valley near Scottsdale, Arizona. Spread over 20 acres and overlooking Camelback Mountain, The Ritz-Carlton, Paradise Valley resort will offer 200 casita-style guest rooms and 20,000 sf of function space. The resort, scheduled to open in late 2018, also will feature a destination spa.


Hilton’s new Conrad Chicago will open at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Erie St. in spring 2016 (the former Conrad Chicago has been rebranded as a Starwood Hotels & Resorts Luxury Collection property). The new Conrad Chicago is being constructed within a historic 20-story, downtown property, with beautiful interior design work by Pierre-Yves Rochon. The hotel will offer 287 rooms (each with a 65-inch HDTV), complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property and an array of dining options.

The new Conrad will provide seven multifunction meeting rooms, two expansive hospitality suites and 12 guest rooms that can be converted into one-on-one meeting spaces with full access to the meetings concierge staff. The property will be the sixth in North America under the Conrad brand name. The company is currently working on opening properties in Fort Lauderdale and Washington, DC.

The highly anticipated JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America opened its doors in late November 2015, one of the most important corporate hotel developments to take place in the Twin Cities area. The property is the JW Marriott brand’s first in Minneapolis, and is part of the Mall of America’s recent expansion project.

The JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America has 342 rooms, a three-story lobby area and a signature restaurant, Cedar + Stone, Urban Table led by noted chef Everton Clarke. The restaurant’s private dining room accommodates up to 14 guests. The hotel offers 20,000 sf of event space, including a ballroom with a capacity of 1,700 attendees. Another feature of the property is an innovative Event Lounge, where guests can relax or experience live culinary demonstrations or other events. The hotel is located in Bloomington, close to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and a 15-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis.

Washington, DC Area

Construction is underway at the MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC, and MGM Resorts International has big plans for the company’s first large-scale resort located on the East Coast. The MGM National Harbor project is expected to open in the second half of 2016. “We expect that resort to be one of the most successful U.S. resorts outside of Las Vegas when it is opened,” says Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International.

The $1.3 billion casino and hotel project will include a 125,000-sf casino with 3,300 video lottery terminals and 160 table games; a 26,500-sf spa and salon; a 24-story, 308-room tower hotel; a transformable arena with 3,000 seats; 18,000 sf of high-end retail space; 27,000 sf of meeting space; and 12 restaurants, many with notable national and international chefs, including chefs José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson and Bryan and Michael Voltaggio.


In the Caribbean region, the 547-suite Hyatt Ziva Cancun opened in late November 2015, after an $85 million expansion and renovation project. The property is surrounded on three sides by the Caribbean Sea, and Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta designed the original resort building that has now been incorporated into the new Hyatt Ziva Cancun. An elevated lobby captures ocean views to the northeast and, in the evening, the lights of Isla Mujeres. All guest suites provide one-touch lighting efficiency, complimentary in-room refreshment bars, in-room dining service and, for upper-category accommodations, swim-up suites and private butler service. Hyatt Ziva Cancun also offers an exclusive Hyatt Club Level with a private lounge and concierge service.

Hyatt Ziva Cancun now provides state-of-the-art meeting and convention space with more than 11,000 sf of flexible meeting and event areas, including a ballroom that can be divided into five breakout rooms, and seven additional meeting rooms. The outdoor lawn, garden and beach venues also are available for corporate incentives and meetings.


Panama City, Panama, is becoming Latin America’s fastest growing meetings destination with double-digit growth in its meetings and conventions business in recent years, and is becoming a leading business hub in the region. The newest addition to the city skyline is The Ritz-Carlton, Panama, which brings a touch of luxury and elegance to this busy and interesting city. Sharing space with high-end retail within a 29-story new-build, this downtown hotel features four dining venues, two swimming pools, state-of-the-art meeting space and a luxury spa. Some of the biggest hotel companies in the world have opened new meetings and conventions facilities in Panama City in recent years.

In 2015, the Amador Convention Center, the largest convention center in the country, opened in Panama City, providing 570,505 sf meeting space. The $193 million complex, designed by the well-known architecture firm RM+ LLC, features a banquet hall, exhibition hall and conference facilities, as well as a grand plaza, outdoor amphitheater and 1,500-seat performing arts theater with balcony and box seating.

In addition to the Amador opening, Hyatt opened its first Hyatt-branded hotel in Panama, the 165-room Hyatt Place Panama City, and the company is rumored to be considering another Hyatt-branded facility closer to the convention center, scheduled to open next year.

Hilton has opened the 347-room Hilton Panama, and the company already runs three other hotels in Panama City, including a Waldorf Astoria. A fifth Hilton is expected to open soon.

The number of hotel rooms available in Panama City has almost doubled since 2007, with more than 13,000 hotel rooms now available in Panama City. The oversupply of hotel rooms has resulted in declining room rates, which means that discounted rooms for business groups in all hotel categories are possible.

Grand Cayman

Also in the Caribbean, Kimpton Hotels, which has been attracting younger business travelers and small groups to its 60 boutique, city center properties in the U.S., is now targeting resort group business with its upscale and contemporary Seafire Resort and Spa on Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island, its first project outside North America. “Cayman will be the crown jewel resort in our collection,” says Mike DeFrino, the hotel group’s chief executive officer. The resort’s 266 rooms include 16 oceanfront suites, nine beachfront bungalows, 18 ocean-view suites and 118 oceanview guest rooms. Indoor meeting space and a 1,300-sf event lawn is planned. The property is expected to open in November 2016. I&FMM

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