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Hotel Renovation: like clockworks

Hotel renovation is essential to offering clients a quality product and to remain competitive. In addition to maintaining the property, it is an opportunity to follow changing trends in esthetics and relaunch business, justifying an increase in daily rates and a good return on the Capex.

Renovations are moving along in Europe’s hotels. In London, the Savoy and the Four Seasons of London will reopen at the end of the year after long months behind closed doors for a complete renovation. While the economic crisis forced some hoteliers to postpone works to a better period, slow periods are often the right time to refresh the product. In Paris, the arrival of new palaces encourages investment. Of course each year the jewels of Paris’s hotel industry invest several million euros in improving their inventory. “Our clients continue to pay for a certain product, that is why we invest,” explains François Delahaye, general manager of the Plaza Athénée and Director of Operations at the Dorchester Group. “In Paris, we redid rooms at the Meurice and the bathrooms at the Plaza where we also added a Christian Dior spa’’. But the competition is stimulating and the time has come for more extensive projects such as the extension of the Bristol that got a new wing, to commit to doubling the surface area of the spa and soon the creation of a new panoramic suite. The Plaza Athénée will also expand with the creation of meeting spaces in the recently acquired contiguous buildings.The perspective of financially forcing a large number of independent hoteliers to close up shop pushed the French government to consider postponing the final date for putting the new fire safety and handicapped access standards into effect. This obligation results in costly but necessary renovations. “If these laws remain, 3,000 to 4,000 of some 18,000 family-operated hotels risk closing in the next 5 years, 30,000 jobs will be threatened either directly or indirectly and loss in turnover could reach 4 billion euros. I hope the new fire security laws will go into effect in 2015, rather than 2011,” explains Hervé Novelli, French Secretary of State for Tourism.Soft renovation after 6 or 7 years; global renovation after a dozen and full after twenty: such vital works are a part of a hotel’s lifecycle. On a grander scale they are also a part of a brand’s life. Holiday Inn, Renaissance, Sheraton: all these brands have undertaken a gigantic facelift worldwide. The pioneer brand Starwood Hotels is reaching completion with a vast revitalization plan for a global cost of 6 billion dollars, which included redoing 300 new lobbies, 70,000 new rooms, 100,000 new beds and the unfurling of an internet corner: Link@sheraton. “As the economy rebounds and travelers return to the road again, we will be ready with new flagships, renovated properties and the brand’s signature products,” rejoiced Hoyt Harper, global brand manager in the middle of the year.In France, Mercure is also evolving. Several renovations illustrate all it has undertaken to remodel its image. In Biarritz, the hotel Le Président closed its doors in December 2008 to reopen in summer 2009 after 5 million euro of works under the lead of the architect Didier Rey, to valorize the building’s Art Déco spirit. In Paris, another major job was done at the hotel Mercure Austerlitz Bibliothèque. “We have worked closely with the architect Hubert Le Gall to elaborate an innovative and original global project centering on plants in all forms,” explains Marta Pardo-Badier, the general manager. This project is developed in 3 distinct phases: the renovation of 88 rooms, completed since March 2010, with the creation of a suite with terrace and a view of the Eiffel Tower, renovation during the summer of the common areas. And finally, the creation of a façade representing the ramifications of a tree entering the rooms will give the project its final touch in December.Renovation by area is the most common solution, a fortiori in cities where business is around 75% like in Paris or London and where any prolonged immobilization means a profit loss. The contractor’s job is thus intensely delicate because it must not penalize the hotel or disturb clientele. “It is a challenge. We have to work without upsetting the property’s smooth operation. We must adapt to its activity daily. During certain periods, clientele is mostly Leisure, and would like to sleep late. At others, a conference may be held in the hotel so there must be as little noise as possible during the day,” remarks Manfred Terliesner, general manager of Tenbrink, the group that renovated the Marriott Champs Elysées – 300 rooms in under 100 days – and more recently the Radisson Blu Ambassador on the Grands boulevards.“Renovation is a clockwork mechanism,” underlines Martin Bernstein, manager of Tenbrink’s Paris office that the German group opened recently in light of the current opportunities on the French market and in Paris in particular. Optimizing planning lies at the center of Tenbrink’s STR “Shortest Time Renovation” contract and relies on controlling the process from A to Z. “Thanks to 170 employees and a network of 700 loyal partners, we are the only contractor on board. We do not rely on different building trades. We do not sell the laying of tiles or revision of air conditioning. We sell a final product with all the logistics and coordination that go with it,” explains Manfred Terliesner, whose group has also worked with Steigenberger as well as Motel One, Accor and Le Méridien.France: higher standards… but perhaps not yet

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