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Hotels: Good News and Bad


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Article in today's Baltimore Sun describing the continuing process of overhauling/upgrading downtown hotel rooms, in part because of the now-abuilding Convention Center Hilton's looming competition:

Bad news? There may be spot shortages of rooms as some are in the process of being revamped at some hotels, and the end results, though nicer, will probably be more expensive.......... not good news for austerity-minded otaku...... :blink: Personally, I'll take a "dive" over luxury if I'm coming to a maximum-time-in-the-BCC-possible convention like Otakon, but then again I do have a wife and a desire for occasional privacy and cuddles..............

http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-t...0,7910412.story

By Lorraine Mirabella | Sun reporter

November 20, 2007

Bulky televisions - gone. Floral bedspreads - out of the picture. Desks where you plug in your laptop - so yesterday.

Touches once found in the best hotels are going by the wayside in downtown Baltimore. The biggest hotels are spending millions of dollars to update and upgrade, to cater to tech-savvy guests and compete in a radically shifting hotel landscape.

Hotels are going wireless in the guestrooms, smoothing "popcorn" ceilings, installing flat-screen computer monitors to double as TVs and making bedding more luxurious and lobbies more inviting.

The changes come as hundreds of new hotel rooms are under way or planned downtown and less than a year from the opening of the city-owned Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel, being built across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"A lot of these hotels are doing the renovations so they can keep up with the Hilton," said Thomas J. Noonan, chief executive officer of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. With a state-of-the-art, 757-room hotel attached to the convention center opening next September, "you better look as good as you can."

Most major downtown hotels have recently started or completed or are planning renovations.

They include an $18 million guestroom makeover at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, a $12 million room renovation at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor, a $15 million renovation of public areas and the restaurant at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, a $30 million total renovation of the Sheraton Baltimore City Center and a recently completed $20 million guestroom renovation at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore.

The Intercontinental Harbor Court Hotel, which converted two years ago from Harbor Court Hotel, has had $4.6 million in upgrades, including technology updates in the rooms, and is planning banquet space renovations. The Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore will start renovating meeting space next month and is planning a major renovation, including all guestrooms.

The upgrades can only help the city's tourism reputation and ability to sell itself as a convention destination, Noonan said.

Hotel managers say all the sprucing up has more to do with meeting consumer demand than gearing up for competition from the new Hilton, which is being built by the city to bolster its flagging convention business.

But they say it is crucial to offer cutting-edge design and amenities as the city begins offering itself as a potential host of bigger conventions. That means the city will get fresh looks from business groups and leisure travelers alike.

"With all the new competition coming into the market, and development going on in the area, we thought it would be a great time," said Bobby Vaughan, director of sales and marketing for the Marriott Waterfront at Harbor East.

A makeover is usually an effective way for an existing hotel to compete with a new player, especially in the short term, said John B. "Jack" Corgel, Robert C. Baker professor of real estate at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

"It takes a new hotel anywhere from a year and a half to three years to ramp up, so ... you reinvest in your own hotel and keep customers in place," Corgel said. "In the short term, an existing hotel renovation is pretty competitive against new hotels. ... Past the three-year point, you're looking at a horse race."

The flood of new rooms is a boost for the city's convention center but will take several years to be absorbed, said Rod Petrik, a Baltimore-based managing director and hotel analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. More than 3,000 hotel rooms are under construction or planned for the center city, and there also has been a hotel boom near Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"With all this supply coming on line, a lot of [hotel] owners are fearful about what will happen in Baltimore," Petrik said. After the Hilton opens, "most downtown hotels will have a step-down in their occupancy and pressure on their rates."

This month, the Marriott Waterfront is starting its most extensive renovation since it opened in February 2001. In the project, the 754 guestrooms will be remodeled with tiled entryways, granite-topped coffee nooks, new furnishings, drapes and carpeting. Thirty-seven-inch flat-screen TVs, with "jack packs" for plug-in games, MP3 players and computers, will sit atop new contemporary bureaus. Bathrooms will feature larger ceramic tile. All rooms will have wireless Internet access.

The Marriott's sister hotel - the Marriott Inner Harbor - just completed renovating its ballrooms and public spaces and is launching a renovation of guestrooms that will also replace televisions with flat-screen models and make the rooms wireless.

The Sheraton Baltimore City Center, formerly the Wyndham, is continuing an overhaul as part of a rebranding last January. Renovations will touch every corner of the hotel - the 706 guestrooms, the lobbies and public spaces, meeting rooms, fitness center and corridors, said Richard Bryant, director of sales and marketing. Work is continuing on about 150 rooms, Bryant said.

"There hadn't been a renovation of this magnitude since the 1970s," he said. "Renovations always help, so the timing is good."

The Hyatt Regency, the first hotel built at the developing Inner Harbor 26 years ago, completed a renovation last fall, its most extensive ever. Rooms now have ergonomic armchairs, original artwork, decorative light fixtures, flat-screen TVs, wireless keyboards and walk-in glass showers with granite vanities.

And the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel finished the first phase of its project in July to renovate the public areas and restaurant for the first time in the hotel's nearly 20-year history, a move prompted by new ownership two years ago.

The lobby has been transformed into a "great room," where guests can log onto the Internet, have a drink at the bar, watch TV or relax by a fire. Hotel ballrooms have been redone with new carpeting and furnishings, and the former Windows restaurant, now the Water Table, has had a makeover. The last phase of renovations, to be done by the end of the year, will cover public restrooms, the pool and health club, and bring flat-screen TVs to the 622 guestrooms.

"There's a lot of new hotel product coming into the area," said Hayley Grimes, sales and marketing director, "and you just want to stay competitive."

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mmmm ... If I wasn't checking in earlier than most this might be enough to make me consider keeping the fallback reservation longer.

The flood of new rooms is a boost for the city's convention center but will take several years to be absorbed, said Rod Petrik, a Baltimore-based managing director and hotel analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. More than 3,000 hotel rooms are under construction or planned for the center city, and there also has been a hotel boom near Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"With all this supply coming on line, a lot of [hotel] owners are fearful about what will happen in Baltimore," Petrik said. After the Hilton opens, "most downtown hotels will have a step-down in their occupancy and pressure on their rates."

Golly, and here I thought the easiest way to absorb new hotel occupancy was to be open during Otakon.

NOTE - Since this thread's title is as appropriate as any new one I could start:

Just a word of planning for you out-of-staters that might not hear about this until closer in, but Maryland has passed some lovely little tax increases effective next year. The two you will need to keep in mind are 1% increase in general sales tax (now 5% going to 6%) and a 2.5% increase in occupancy tax (6% tp 8.5%) Don't forget, BOTH of these are charged on your reservation. On the plus side, smokers will pay an extra buck a pack too, so start quitting now.

Summaries for all these and more can be found at http://mlis.state.md.us/2007s1/misc/2007s1_index.htm

Edited by Transepoch
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This isn't at all surprising especially with the way Downtown is trying to become the latest artsy fartsy version of Washington DC. I mean just look at all the condos and waterfront properties that have popped up in the last year. Not to mention all the new restaurants and boutiques, its only natural that they would want to update the hotels as well. That new Hilton coming was just the final push for the other hotels.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just want to know when my lovely Renaissance is going to provide some free internet...wired or not, as much as I love this hotel I'm getting tired of the fee...

I liked what they did with the public space last year, but I need some free connectivity...

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