by Lisa Grimaldi | February 01, 2006

The Rocco Forte

Brown’s in town: The Rocco Forte property has reopened following renovations.

The British capital has a historical reputation for resiliency. Over the centuries, London has survived fires, plagues, sieges and air raids. In each case, the city and its doughty residents have got on with it, as the expression goes, and moved straightway ahead.
    It appears to be no different this year. Last July, terrorists bombed the city’s mass transit system. Although the scars of the tragedy remain, residents and visitors continue to use the Tube and buses, and hotel occupancy rates are back to pre-attack levels, according to VisitLondon.
    The local hospitality community, spearheaded by VisitLondon, once again is promoting the city’s surprise victory over Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, and touting the myriad improvements and developments under way as a result.

Meeting spaces
London’s bid to build a large conference center is showing progress. A commission set up by the city’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, recently recommended the facility be built in central London and estimated the cost at US$500 million. The commission predicted the center will boost the British economy by US$700 million annually and create 5,500 jobs; the work will be funded by a public/private partnership. Commission chairman Gerry Acher requested a short list of two possible sites for the meeting venue by this spring, with the final site to be selected this summer.

Hotel update
The landmark Brown’s Hotel has reopened following a $34 million, 20-month facelift. Now part of Rocco Forte Hotels, Brown’s has 117 guest rooms, including 15 suites; six meeting rooms; a restaurant and bar, and a gym with three spa treatment rooms.
    The 394-room Riverbank Park Plaza opened last year with 10 meeting rooms, two ballrooms and a function room with panoramic views of the River Thames and the city skyline.
    The Savoy, formerly a feather in the Savoy Group’s cap, is now managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. The remaining Savoy Group properties, Claridge’s, The Connaught and The Berkeley, were sold last year and are now part of The Maybourne Hotel Group.
    The 130-room Apex City of London hotel opened last fall. The property, near the Tower of London, has five meeting rooms.
    The Hilton Waldorf has completed a $52 million head-to-toe renovation of its 299 guest rooms and all public spaces, as well as the executive lounge and seven meeting rooms.
    The Draycott, an elegant 35-room townhouse property in the tony environs of Cadogan Gardens, is now able to accommodate group buyouts for meetings.
    In late 2009, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts will debut its first European property here a 195-room hotel on 18 floors of the 70-story London Bridge Tower. When completed, it will be Europe’s tallest building. The hotel will have meeting space for 400, a business center with several board rooms, and a CHI spa, Shangri-La’s signature spa brand.
    Hilton International has two debuts this year: the 283-room Hilton London Canary Wharf, with eight meeting rooms, and the 245-room Hilton London Tower Bridge, with nine meeting rooms.

Last fall, the Eurostar train, which offers high-speed service between London, Paris and Brussels, launched separate cars for business and leisure first-class travelers.