January 31, 2007

The Luxury Alliance, a marketing partnership of The Leading Hotels of the World, Relais & Chateaux, Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Crusies, Silversea Cruises and Crystal Cruises, released Jan. 30 "The Direction of Luxury," an annual white paper highlighting trends in high-end travel. The report said luxury brands are at risk, from copycat websites; hotel chains created rapidly from a single, iconic hotel; investment firms that buy luxury properties, cut their staff and sell them at a profit; and a dearth of high-quality staff. Destinations of increasing interest, according to the alliance, are Argentina, the Baltic States, Botswana, Brazil, Indian Ocean destinations, Peru, South Africa and Vietnam.

The Marriott Austin Capitol in Texas has been reflagged the Sheraton Austin Hotel. The 361-room property is near the capitol building, about a mile from the Austin Convention Center. An extensive renovation begins this summer. The hotel offers more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 207-room Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (Calif.) celebrated its official relaunch last weekend, following the completion of a $240 million restoration project. The hotel has more than 15,000 square feet of meeting space, plus outdoor gardens, terraces and an event lawn.

The 150-room Sheraton Tarrytown (N.Y.) opened last week. The hotel is the first to be built from a new Sheraton prototype for small properties in suburban markets. Rooms were given a "Ralph Lauren-like" design, including a Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed and an extensive work area. The hotel has two meeting rooms totaling 1,000 square feet of meeting space, plus a boardroom.

According to Japan's Kyodo News International, two hotels in Kyoto, Japan, were closed by the city government last Thursday due to fears about their structural reliability in the event of an earthquake. The government said data about quakeproofing was possibly falsified for the 515-room Apa Hotel Kyoto-Eki-Horikawadori and the 139-room Apa Villa Hotel Kyoto-Ekimae, both of which are operated the Apa Group hotel and condo developer. JapanÕs Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry is now looking into 143 structures based on suspect data from Tamura Mizuochi Sekkei, a planning firm in Toyama. A similar quakeproofing scandal rocked the country from 2005-2006, when more than 100 buildings -- including hotels by architect Hidetsugu Aneha -- were shown to be using fake data.

Opened on Jan. 29 was the 388-room Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport. Amenities at the hotel include 18,500 square feet of meeting space, a pool, a gym, tennis courts and a signature restaurant called Ocean Blu.

The 205-room InterContinental Moscow will be built on the site of the former Minsk Hotel, adjacent to the Kremlin and Pushkin Square. It will open in 2010, but no further details have been announced. Parent company InterContinental Hotels Group currently manages four Holiday Inns in the city, with a combined room count of 1,290.

Ground will be broken on a new condohotel in Orlando on Feb. 1. The Sage Resort, which will open in spring 2009 with Mediterranean-inspired decor, will have 260 rooms, five acres of gardens, a 24-hour gym, a business center, a fine-dining restaurant, and meeting and banquet space, although the square-footage has not been announced.

Corinthia Hotels International will manage a new five-star property being built in Algiers, Algeria. The 274-room hotel, opening in 2009, will have a business center, a health club and conference facilities; the number of meeting rooms has not yet been determined.

LaSalle Hotel Properties' 109-room Alexis Hotel in downtown Seattle will undergo an $8.5 million renovation encompassing all guest rooms and public space.

The overhaul of Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Waikiki properties will include a rebranding of the 793-room Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel as a Westin. The overall renovation project, which also includes the 1,695-room Sheraton Waikiki, the 528-room Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the 1,150-room Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, will cost about $400 million and run through 2009.