Millennium Hotels & Resorts Makes Huge Investment in Its North American Properties

In February of this year,Millennium Hotels & Resorts said it would continue to invest heavily in its North American portfolio of 14 hotels, as part of its commitment to ensuring its properties were at the top of their game in their respective markets. To date, the London-based company's capital investment in upgrades and renovations, which began in 2012, totals over $200 million, with more hotels slated to go under the hammer later this year, including Boston and Buffalo.

That's a lot of capital injection for a small player -- Millennium's global portfolio stands at 110 hotels -- when stacked up against the likes of Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. There is, however, one huge difference. Millennium not only manages, it owns every one of its properties, a rarity in the world of global hotel chains that over recent years have moved to an "asset light" business model.

"We have always only bought hotels. We have never sold any," Colin Wang, Millennium's vice president of operations, North America, told The Hotel Insider in a candid interview. "That's why we are so committed to maintaining them. We had not been putting capital into our North American assets, and with the resurgence of the U.S. economy, it was essential from an operational point of view that we make that commitment."

Four Millennium properties already have wrapped up major overhauls. Perhaps the most visual is the One UN New York (formerly the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel), which debuted its new $30 million, 154-room West Tower in 2012. Besides a new lobby, a new private Skyline Club on the tower's 30th floor has its own concierge services, all-day refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. And, with a nod to the United Nations Headquarters, which shares its address, the hotel's revamped menus now showcase a more diverse, global range of dishes.

This month the 248-room Lakefront Anchorage, formerly known as the Millennium Alaskan Hotel Anchorage, wrapped up an $8.3 million renovation, which included an overhaul of its guests rooms, lobby and meeting space. Set along Lake Spenard, considered one of the world's busiest floatplane hubs, the hotel has the distinction of being the only lakeside property in Alaska's capital.

Currently undergoing a major makeover is the storied 683-room Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles. When unveiled, its updated guest rooms will feature a warm gray palette to compliment its 1920s Italian Renaissance architecture. The hotel's four ballrooms and meeting space, which total 70,000 square feet, also are being refreshed.

"We have a national sales office, but each hotel has its own sales persona as well," said Wang. "This is because as a company, our operating philosophy is not to play by hard and fast rules. Our hotels are given a lot of flexibility in how they respond to their local markets and the business they want to go after."

Millennium also is keeping a sharp eye on key destinations it feels will be a good fit for its portfolio. "Now is a good time to buy real estate," said Wang. "We are constantly on the prowl for good assets in good locations, with good profitability. So, yes, we plan to have a bigger North American presence."