Over-The-Top Valentine’s Travel Experiences: Day 4

capella pedregal estrella suiteWe’re categorizing all things romantic over the next few weeks here on Gadling, focusing on “over-the-top” travel packages that allow you to declare your love in true high style.

Today’s package comes from one of Mexico’s most luxurious resorts, Capella Pedregal, located in Cabo San Lucas. (You may recall that Capella’s Washington, DC property is the subject of our ongoing “Birth of a Hotel” feature.)

This February, Capella Pedregal has unveiled a “Month of Romance” series of packages, including the sumptuous Passion Ablaze offering, whcih includes:

· Five nights Beachfront Suite accommodations, located directly on the beach
· Luxury car airport transportation
· Private Yacht Ride to Lover’s Beach, with on-board Champagne and dinner on the beach
· Custom piece of jewelry for each night of stay, designed by Chan Luu
· 80-minute Art of Couples Massage
· Private beach-side astronomy lesson
· Private beach dinner for two
· Welcome bottle of Clase Azul Super Anejo tequila
· All food and beverage, including a private dinner in the La Cava wine cellar

· Romantic rose petal turndown
· Glass blown heart memento

While the package is a rather mind-blowing $40,000, it’s worth noting that the one-bedroom beachfront suites generally run at about $2,500 a night for these dates, and so the package isn’t really that much of a stretch from a regular week’s stay.

If you’re still looking to go luxe but not break the bank, the three-night “Heart to Heart” package, featuring many of the same amenities in an ocean view guestroom starts at $3,290.

[Image Credit: Capella Pedregal]

Birth Of A Hotel: And Then There Was One

setai new york a capella hotelCapella Hotels and Resorts will have only one United States property as of early 2013, we’ve learned. The Atlanta-based brand will lose their New York property, The Setai New York, after a sale to Great Eagle Holdings earlier this week. The $229 million purchase means that the 60-floor hotel and condo development will be rebranded under the Langham Hospitality Group in January, Hotels Magazine reports.

This isn’t an entirely shocking development. Capella’s hotels are typically much smaller than the 214-room New York property, and hotel rebrandings are a relatively common occurrence.

“Our entire team worked diligently to establish The Setai as one of the premier luxury hotels in New York City in a location that was not considered part of the traditional luxury hotel corridor,” says Horst Schulze, chairman and CEO of Capella, in a statement printed on GlobeSt.com. “Additionally, we were able to create an atmosphere and reputation that led to residential real estate sales for the owners.”

The New York property was the second Capella hotel in the United States. The $200 million Capella Telluride, which opened at the very beginning of the economic downturn in 2008, closed in 2011 and was later re-opened as Hotel Madeline Telluride.

Never fear, however. Capella is rumored to be scouting other United States locations following the opening of Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown in early 2013, as well as an additional location in a major European city.

As for NYC, Schulze says, “New York City remains a prime location for the Capella Hotel Brand” and looks forward to “announcing our return in the near future.”

Capella Washington D.C. managing partner Bruce Bradley says that he is optimistic about the growth of the brand, stating, “We’re big relationship investors … the concept [Capella has] is one that has the potential to be the leading hotel brand in the world.”

“The Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling-exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at “The Birth Of A Hotel” page, here. We’d also love to hear from you, our readers. If you have a topic about hotel development or trends that you’d love to see explored, email us or leave a comment below.

Birth Of A Hotel: Choosing The Right Place (Setting)

The devil is in the details, they say. The image above shows Capella Washington’s management team examining potential silverware, china and stemware to be used in the dining outlets and rooms at the soon-to-open hotel.

General Manager Alex Obertop explained to us that this process is more difficult than it might seem. Hotels want to find pieces that are attractive, elegant, and fitting of a luxury property but that are at the same time timeless and relatively inexpensive. Items break daily, and you don’t want to bankrupt a hotel by choosing pieces that are difficult to replace.

“Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at the “Birth Of A Hotel” page, here.

[Image courtesy of Capella Washington]

Hotel 101: So, You Want To Open A Hotel? (Part One)

major hotel brandsLet’s say that one day you woke up and decided you wanted to build a hotel (hypothetically, of course). Where would you begin? What’s next? That’s the fundamental question we’ll be asking of hoteliers and hospitality experts over the course of the next few months in “The Birth of a Hotel” series on Gadling.

To illustrate our point, we’ll be following the development, from conception to opening, of Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown, a boutique luxury property in DC that will serve as the brand’s US flagship. We’ll go inside to show you the construction process, introduce you to the key players and show you not only how a hotel is built, but how a brand establishes its presence in a new market. And, to add in a little twist, we’ll showcase the hotel in its race to the finish line, as it prepares to open in time for one of DC’s biggest events – the presidential inauguration – in mid-January, 2013.

Think of the series as a hotel reality show: “How It’s Made” meets Bobby Flay’s “Three Days to Open” meets (just a little bit) of “Hotel Impossible.” Only we won’t be giving out cash prizes and we hope to keep the on-camera hissy fits to a minimum.

So let’s begin at the beginning.

“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about the hotel business is that it’s simple,” says John Hughes, Ed.D., CHE, industry veteran and the director of hospitality management and associate professor of hospitality at the York College of Pennsylvania. “It’s not.”

We’re inclined to agree.

Hotels are often a losing gamble. The hotel industry took a huge hit post 9/11 and has been slow, particularly in the luxury sector, to recover. Choosing a location that can support your endeavor is often the first and most important step.

Step One: Where Am I Building?
Capella’s decision to establish their U.S. flagship in Washington was a smart one. While New York City is often thought of as a more traditional choice to launch a brand (and, in fact, Capella manages The Setai in the city), Washington is a grounded market offering opportunity for luxury brands.

According to Smith Travel Research, Washington, DC’s overall hotel occupancy hovered around 70% in 2011, up from just 66.5% for the nation overall. Revenue, which declined in 2009, grew in 2010 and 2011, and is predicted to grow again in 2012. Supply is also growing, showing the market is expanding, although not fast enough to meet demand. Despite the recession, opportunities in the luxury market remain high in Washington.

Step Two: Show Me The Money.
Hotels aren’t cheap – the 49-room Capella Washington will cost about $45 million, The Washington Business Journal estimated. In comparison, Donald Trump will open a $200 million, 250+ room hotel in a historic post office in 2016, and $547 million, 1,200 room Marriott Marquis is currently under construction.

Capella Washington will be a privately owned hotel, property of Castleton Hotel Partners, LLC. Capella Hotels and Resorts will manage the property, but does not have an ownership investment in it.

Step Three: What Am I Building?
There are many opportunities to build hotels at any level of service in the DC market. This year, 23 hotels are currently in the development pipeline in Washington, adding to those 121 properties and 28,000 hotel rooms in DC proper and more than 660 properties and 106,000 rooms in the greater Washington Metropolitan Region.

In contrast, 379 hotels comprising 38,909 rooms opened in the United States in 2011, STR data showed. New York’s pipeline exceeds Washington’s only slightly, with 172 hotels in development.

Step Four: What Flag Do You Fly?

Hotels can be owned by an individual, a management firm or a brand. Many names, such as Marriott, Four Seasons and Hilton, are primarily management companies – they often don’t own the hotels they operate, instead securing multi-year management contracts. Others choose to operate as independent properties. Around 70% of US hotels are branded, STR data shows.

Ownership groups, which often have multiple brands at differing levels within their portfolio, spend significant time weighing the pluses and minuses of each.

Capella Washington managing partner Bruce Bradley says that he believes Capella represents a high-quality product that is not in any way standardized, instead melding to fit the country or city the property is located in.

In terms of popularity, IHG or InterContinental Hotels Group, is the largest hotel brand worldwide, with over 650,000 rooms and more than 4,500 hotels worldwide. You may not know IHG, but chances are you’ve heard of their properties: Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites and Crowne Plaza, as well as their more upscale or boutique brands, InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, Even and Hualuxe. Each brand has unique selling points.

Names like Marriott (which also owns Ritz-Carlton, Autograph Collection, Bulgari and Edition) and Starwood (St. Regis, Westin, and W) are also in the top ten. Capella, in contrast, has just five open properties, with four more to come by 2014. Only one, The Setai, is currently open in the United States.

Nick Gregory, general manager of boutique brand Kimpton‘s newest property, Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, says that a brand name can have distinct advantages, ranging from corporate structure to a deeper talent pool to economies of scale on the sales side. The lessons learned from previous mistakes can also be valuable. And, of course, brand recognition doesn’t hurt.

Bradley agrees. The ability to cross-market and leverage Capella’s strong client base in a global capital like Washington was an important part of the decision-making process.

Many more properties operate without branded names – for various reasons. “We like to start with a blank slate,” said Abigal Tan, Director of Corporate Affairs and International Investments for London-based St. Giles Hotels. Currently, the company is renovating The Tuscany, a former Starwood property.

“I’m very hands-on,” says Hank Fried, President of The Impulsive Group, a New York-based ownership and management firm that operates, among others, independent luxury property the Sanctuary near Times Square. The freedoms afforded by eschewing a corporate brand let him incorporate the best of his travels and experience in hotels into his properties. Operating as an independent “lends itself to a much more family friendly hotel – everything is a little bit warmer,” he says.

Step Five: Where Do We Go From Here?
Think you’re ready to invest in a hotel? We’re just getting started. Next, we’ll begin the marketing, development and planning phase. Find this, and more, in the next installment of the series.

“The Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling-exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at “The Birth Of A Hotel” page, here. We’d also love to hear from you, our readers. If you have a topic about hotel development or trends that you’d love to see explored, email us or leave a comment, below.