With roots as early as 1944, Sonesta has been a unique group with a focus on individuality for over 65 years, both in the sense of the family that heads it and the destinations that their guests head to. Sonesta brings the destination within the hotel walls for an integrated and localized experience.
- Hotels: 55 (17 Esprit Suites brand, 5 Royal brand)- Rooms: 8126- Founded: 1944- Founders: A.M. Sonnabend
Sonesta International Hotels Corporation is a hotel group based on the idea of experiencing local culture without having to step outside the hotel. Each of Sonesta’s upscale and luxury resorts and cruise ships is designed to uniquely reflect the location, with local art, cuisine, and décor, in boutique fashion. This product meets a largely underserved market, especially in the United States, as boutique hotels only make up 5% of the supply there. Destinations are diverse as North America, South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Sonesta currently operates 24 properties in the United States, three in Chile, 4 in Colombia, one in Ecuador, seven in Peru, two in Sint Maarten, and 13 locations in Egypt. The latest addition is a casino and resort in Panama, with new locations including Costa Rica and Qatar. FoundingIt is hard to say when the Sonesta group really began, as the hotel group has a rich past spanning over 64 years, rooted in family tradition. The very first sign of the budding hotel group came in 1943 when founder A.M. “Sonny” Sonnabend, along with 6 other investors, formed Sonnabend Operated Hotels and purchased the Preston Beach Hotel in Massachusetts. The group had about 10 hotels in its portfolio by the time it merged with Childs Restaurant Company in 1955. This merger resulted in the Hotel Corporation of America, one of the first major U.S. - based international hotel companies. However, it was not until 1970 that HCA officially became Sonesta International Hotels Corporation.The Sonnabend name has remained the nucleus of the company since its first step in 1944, much of A.M. Sonnabend family entering the company upon graduation. In 1947, Roger Sonnabend became GM at Nautilus Hotel & Beach Club upon graduation from MIT and Harvard Business School. He then inherited the presidency of then-HCA from his father in 1963, when Sonny Sonnabend stepped down to Chairman. Upon their father’s decease in 1964, the three Sonnabend sons made an important decision to form the company as it is known today. Roger, Stephen, and Paul decided to redirect the company to be a hotel management company, rather than real estate or finance as beforeIn 1976 Sonesta gained an important asset when Stephanie Sonnabend, granddaughter to the founder, joined the group as Director of Conference Services upon graduating from Harvard, later re-joining as Director of Planning after completing a degree at MIT Sloan School. She moved to Vice President of Marketing in 1984, to assume her current role as President in 1995, becoming CEO and president in 2003. Artistic expression is an integral part of the Sonesta experience. This is evidenced in their architecture, décor, food presentation and most notably, their world-class art collection. Sonesta owns a world-class collection of more than 7,000 contemporary paintings, sculptures, original prints and tapestries by worldrenowned artists, such as established artists such as Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol Lewitt, Jan Dibbets, Malcolm Morley and Carl Palazzolo, and emerging talent. Some Sonesta locations even offer guided walking tours are offered to enhance the appreciation of the art and to provide background on the artists themselves. The collection began in the early 1960s, and grew under former Chairman Roger P. Sonnabend, his wife being art collector and owner of Obelisk Gallery in Boston. The collection has also grown in value over the years, as it does not include reproductions. Sonesta’s trademark atmosphere is the result of integrating this art in all areas, whether integrated in architecture, interior décor, or even the dining experience. Many works have even been specially commissioned to bring together some areas.One other way that Sonesta brings the destination within its walls is through locally-inspired cuisine, and creative at that! The Sonesta Collection has been proudly hosting the Food is Art concept in all Sonesta hotels, resorts, and cruise ships worldwide since 2005. Executive VP of F&B Kathy Rowe bases this concept on small plates, action stations, farm-to-table ingredients, and intense attention to plating aesthetics for a dish that is “simple, clean, unified, and understandable.”Brand developmentIn 2012, Sonesta launched its most recent brand, Sonesta ES (originally Esprit Suites). The extended stay brand came to fruition with 17 conversions in the United States. According executive VP for Development at Sonesta International, John DePaul, Sonesta Esprit was developed to go head-to-head with brands like Courtyard by Marriott or Hilton Garden Inn. In addition, this select-service brand will complement the existing Royal Sonesta and Sonesta tiers The ES brand will feature enhanced lighting and work areas in the guestroom, plus flexible public spaces to socialize. Of course, the brand will maintain Sonesta trademarks such as locally-inspired food and décor. The first Sonesta ES was thee 141-room Sonesta ES Suites Burlington, located in Burlington, Massachusetts, formerly the Staybridge Suites Burlington.Royal Sonesta locations include Baltimore, New Orleans, Boston, and Houston. The Royal brand is relatively long-lived, as the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston opened in 1964, and Royal Sonesta New Orleans in 1969. The Royal brand properties in Houston and Baltimore, however; were just rebranded in 2012. The Royal Sonesta Hotel & Casino Panama is the first Royal branded location outside of the United States. International ExpansionSonesta Hotels began its international expansion in San Juan, Porto Rico. The brand did not start moving into Latin America until 1998 with Sonesta Hotel El Olivar Lima, Peru. Latin America is of primary importance to the group today. Sonesta now manages 16 properties in the region, the most recently opened being the 304-room Royal Sonesta Hotel & Casino Panama. Sonesta redoubled efforts towards its Latin American expansion in 2009, when it set a goal of opening 7 new establishments in the region within the year, including 3 establishments in Colombia (in the cities of Valledupar, Barranquilla, and Cartagena), 3 in Chile (Concepcion, Osorno, and Calama), and a Cusco property in Peru. All three Chilean locations were completed in 2009, plus the Valledupar property in Colombia. The Barranquilla and Cusco locations were not completed until 2010, with the finalization of the Cartagena property coming in 2011. The wait, however, came with a Bogota destination, and Sonesta’s Ecuadorian debut with the 112-room Sonesta Hotel Guayaquil. The group is maintaining an aggressive growth strategy. For 2013, there are four new projects expected to open internationally. Locations include Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, and Qatar. The group is continuing on its Latin American path with its fifth hotel in Colombia with the 134-room Sonesta Hotel Villavicencio, eighth hotel in Peru with the 126-room Sonesta Hotel Arequipa, and Costa Rican debut with the 171-room Sonesta Hotel Escazu. The group is also making significant progress in the Middle East, with its first Middle Eastern property outside of Egypt, the 166-room Sonesta Hotel Doha in Qatar.Growth in 2013 has already included the Royal Sonesta Hotel & Casino Panama City, Panama. This full-service resort offers 304 luxury guestrooms in the city’s business district, located just a few miles from the Tocumen International Airport. The hotel also features two restaurants, a fitness center, sauna, Turkish bath, spa, and business center. The casino portion of the project and rooftop pool with panoramic views are scheduled to open later in the year.
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