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B Hotels Signs Second Property, Eyes Five During Next YearShare
Just nine months after its launch, B Hotels & Resorts has one property open and performing well and another identified for conversion. Brand executives hope to have three more conversions in works by the end of the year and five open or under development during 2012.
“In less than a year, we announced and opened our first hotel and announced the next location and hotel. Most other new brands take two or three years before they can open their first hotel,” says Christopher Tompkins, B Hotels’ enthusiastic corporate vice president. By contrast, the Virgin Hotels brand, which also launched last September at The Lodging Conference, has yet to announce its first property.
The second B (the first is in Fort Lauderdale) will be a conversion of the 250-room Continental Oceanfront South Beach Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. InSite Group and Cube Capital bought the property earlier this year for $61 million and plan a substantial renovation of the hotel ahead of its late fall 2012 relaunch as the B South Beach. It remains open during the renovation.
Tompkins says while the South Beach hotel will incorporate the brand’s signature elements, such as B Ambiance (lighting, music and scents), B Social (communal tables and gathering places), B Nourished (f&b), B Active (fitness center) and more, it will also reflect the design and cultural hallmarks of the destination. “It will incorporate a multitude of styles blended into one unique environment,” explains Tompkins. “Of course, there is the opportunity to play with the Art Deco look of the area, as well as its history.”
Tompkins says the B Ocean Fort Lauderdale, which is owned by the same joint venture developing the South Beach hotel, has performed above expectations since its opening in January. “We’re kicking ass and taking numbers,” he says. “The decision to flag the South Beach property as a B is flat-out based on the success we’ve achieved at B Ocean.”
He says occupancy during the winter season was about 90 percent, success he credits at least in part to the hotel’s aggressive social media marketing strategy. The property is active on TripAdvsior, Facebook and Twitter and markets directly to past and future guests through a monthly e-newsletter, B First to Know, which pushes out special offers based on guest interests. It’s also one of the few hotel chains with a reservations widget on its Facebook page.
The Continental Oceanfront South Beach will become a B Hotel following an extensive renovation.
Tompkins rejects the notion that social media is just for young people. “People over 50 is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook,” he says, “and that skews toward the demograhic we’re seeking, which is the progressive generation of people between the ages of 35 to 70.”
The chain has lofty growth goals: Tompkins expects to have five hotel open or under development by the end of the year. He targets expansion in two tiers: In the top tier are New York, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orlando. Next on the list of target markets such Atlanta and Charleston.
“We’re now aggressively looking at New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, but the properties must tie to the key foundation of the brand, and that is destination. These cities are all great destinations, but it’s the specific locations within those cites that matter to us,” he says. In Manhattan, for example, he says a downtown location would be fine, but Midtown or the Theater District makes more sense. “In Chicago, being on Lakeshore Drive is a no-brainer but the concept may not work as well in some of the outlying areas,” adds Tompkins.
The U.S. will be the prime growth markets for the next five years. While Tompkins says the Caribbean is attractive, “it’s a tough market right now. We would rather consider emerging markets first, such as South America.”
By Ed Watkins