By Cheryl-Anne Sturken
Earlier this week, I joined more than 150 Hampton Hotels executives, New York City luminaries and media at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 148-room Hampton Inn Manhattan/United Nations on East 43rd Street, just steps from Grand Central Station. The new property, Hampton's 1,900th, brings the chain's Manhattan portfolio to eight, with another three currently under construction in the area, including one each in the Financial District, the Times Square area and in Brooklyn, all of which are scheduled to open by year-end 2014. But that's just part of this particular success story.
Founded less than 30 years ago, the Hampton brand, which began as Hampton Inn and now includes Hampton Inn & Suites and Hampton by Hilton, has sprouted vigorously as investors have embraced its business model and consumers have flocked to its value-driven price point. In fact, it has become the rising midprice category star of parent company, McLean, Va.-based Hilton Worldwide, which opened 100 Hampton hotels in 2012 and another 22 in the first three months of this year alone. In addition, another 60 properties, including the Big Apple entries cited above, are slated to open by 2014. Not too shabby for an upstart that got its start as a small budget hotel. And, while Hampton's footprint has grown predominantly in the United States, it is quickly planting flags in key international business locations, such as Cartagena, Columbia, where the 135-room Hampton by Hilton Cartagena opened earlier this month.
According to Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Smith Travel Research's October 2012 U.S. Hotel Pipeline Outlook report, the midprice hotel category (traditionally defined as properties which offer limited food and beverage options, compared to traditional full-service hotels) represents 85 percent of the total development pipeline. And, at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, held this past January in Los Angeles, a panel of real-estate advisors said the attractiveness of this segment continues to gain momentum.
Attractive indeed, and not just to investors. For instance, the rooms at the Hampton Inn Manhattan/United Nations, which has a handy 24-hour parking garage next door, have a clean, contemporary design and are downright spacious by New York City hotel standards. Next to the sunlit lobby atrium, known as Hampton Alley, is a large open kitchen with a seating area for guests to indulge in a complimentary, create-your-own breakfast. Downstairs is a sizable, fully loaded 24-hour fitness center, adjacent to a 24-hour business center.
"This is a brand that has really come into its own, with its own voice. And this hotel has everything going for it. It represents a great milestone for us," Jim Holthouser, executive vice president, global brands, at Hilton Worldwide told me as we toasted the property's opening with a glass of bubbly.
The hotel's corporate neighbors have been quick to take note of the new arrival. According to an insider, the lobby area with its complimentary Wi-Fi has become the de facto meeting spot for some Pfizer folks; the pharmaceutical giant's headquarters are just a street and a skip away.