March 07, 2007

Hilton Hotels Corp. has announced it is selling its Scandic chain for US$1.1 billion to the private equity group EQT. Scandic, with 132 full-service hotels, is the largest hotel operator in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Hilton also unveiled aggressive expansion plans for its limited-service segment, with plans to open 1,000 hotels in North America by 2012 and another 1,000 in Europe by 2017. The bulk of those already announced are Homewood Suites and Hilton Garden Inn properties, which currently have 250 hotels between them in the pipeline.

French hotel company Accor announced this week that it will sell 91 properties to Moor Park Real Estate, for US$1.13 billion. The sale, executed as part of Accor's real estate management strategy, includes 72 hotels in Germany and 19 in the Netherlands, all under the Novotel, Mercure, Ibis and Etap brands. Accor will continue to operate the hotels under current management contracts.

A group of investors has agreed to purchase the 1,720-room Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and plans to renovate the hotel. SBE Entertainment Group will manage the hotel through its subsidiaries, and the Navegante Group will manage the 85,000-square-foot casino under a lease agreement. The hotel has 9,650 square feet of meeting space.

A W Hotel will open in 2008 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The W St. Petersburg will have 135 rooms (many of which will have a view of St. Isaac's Cathedral), a restaurant and a rooftop bar. Meeting space is yet to be determined.

Disney Cruise Line is adding two 1,250-stateroom ships to its fleet, to be deployed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The cruise line currently has two ships. According to a spokesperson for the company, specific design plans and itineraries for the yet-unnamed ships still are in development.

In other Disney news, Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort will collaborate with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to convert two golf courses on its northeastern border into a new luxury hotel (to open in 2010), an 18-hole championship golf course and residences. Disney also has plans for a commercial district that will offer lodging, retail and dining in a pedestrian-friendly area. The latter project will be built in phases over the next eight to 10 years.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has announced plans to manage a new "green" hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. The 185-room Fairmont Pittsburgh, to open in summer 2009, will include an 8,000-square-foot spa and 12,000 square feet of meeting space. The developers are applying for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which will authenticate the hotel as eco-friendly.

The New Orleans Marriott Metairie at Lakeway, between the airport and downtown area, will reopen this spring, it was announced last week. The 220-room property will feature the new Marriott guest rooms. The property includes 6,500 square feet of flexible meeting space and a new concept restaurant.