Opening during a pandemic? No problem for a luxury hotel

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A refurbished luxury hotel near San Antonio International Airport aims to regain the panache that was synonymous with its original name, La Mansion del Norte, more than four decades ago.

Opposite the North Star Mall, the Estancia de Norte will replace a hotel in the DoubleTree chain. Its opening is scheduled for April 1.

The pandemic may not be the perfect time to open a new luxury hotel, but the director of Presidian Hotels & Resorts – who will manage the property – has said he is confident the Estancia del Norte will be successful in the long run. term.

“Generally speaking, when you open a hotel, it takes about two years for it to reach peak performance,” said CEO Charles Leddy.

This is how long it will take the San Antonio hospitality industry to recover from the COVID-19-induced slowdown.

“Everyone tells us it’s going to be 2023,” Leddy said.

He predicted that people would travel more in the second half of 2021 as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available.

“I think if we do our job well and create a truly unique experience at this hotel, we will do very well,” he said.

Leddy expects to charge an average nightly rate of $ 149 at the Estancia del Norte, which is less than half the normal price of other luxury hotels, such as the Emma by the Pearl Hotel and the Thompson Hotel. San Antonio, which are slated to open in the city center at the end of January.

As well as competing on price, he said, the Estancia del Norte will attract customers who don’t want to stay downtown.

The hotel will employ 150 people. Presidian plans to fill some of the positions with former DoubleTree employees and laid-off workers from other local hotels the company operates.

The original La Mansion del Norte opened in 1978. Local hotel developer Pat Kennedy positioned it as a sister hotel to La Mansion Del Rio, his hotel on the River Walk. The hotel is now part of the Omni chain.

Kennedy sold La Mansion del Norte in 1988. The hotel lost its name and eventually its elegance, becoming a chain of establishments under several different brands.

It hosted visitors as the Sheraton Fiesta from 1995 to 2010 before becoming the DoubleTree San Antonio Airport Hotel.

Hotels in the airport zone posted an average occupancy rate of 43.5% in December, down nearly 31% from the previous year, according to STR, which tracks hotel occupancy and financial datas.

Airport hotels filled about half of their rooms in August and September, their best months since the pandemic struck in March. Consultants say hotels need 60-70% occupancy rates to make a profit.

The room occupancy rate was over 75% for airport hotels in August and September 2019, STR reports.

Leddy is the majority investor in a development entity associated with Presidian.

He said the partnership paid more than $ 15 million to buy the DoubleTree from a California investment group and invested $ 11 million in renovations.

Most of the five-story hotel’s 263 rooms and 12 suites face an interior courtyard that features a palm tree promenade.

A fountain in the Spanish-style lobby runs dry today, but will flow afloat when guests start arriving in April.

Local artist Sienna Dunis Ginn creates a 21-foot by 6-foot mural for the lobby, showcasing the hotel’s history as well as scenes from San Antonio city life.

Leddy has teamed up with local Texas restaurant company Don Strange for the hotel restaurant. Don Strange of Texas CEO Brian Strange will open the company’s first brick-and-mortar dining establishment there. The restaurant, Lazo With Don Strange, will seat 180 people.

The hotel plans to use its 7,000-square-foot courtyard and ballroom – along with the reputation of The Strange Company – to attract weddings and other special events.

“There are a lot of people who have postponed weddings and big events like that, and they’re going to want to come back – and the hotel could be a great place,” said Paul Vaughn, senior vice president of San Antonio. Source Strategies hotel consulting firm.

Vaughn said the wedding business could pick up by fall as more people will receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Special events and celebrations fill hotel rooms, said Tucker Johnson, assistant professor at the University of Houston, Conrad N. Hilton. Hotel and restaurant management college.

Although managed by Presidian, Estancia del Norte is part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the hotel company‘s boutique line.

“This will give the hotel a lot of exposure to potential customers as they are part of the Hilton reservation system,” said Johnson, who teaches on the school’s campus in San Antonio.

Leddy said the hotel would pay more than 10% of its revenue to be part of the Hilton chain, but it’s actually more economical than operating as an independent hotel.

He said independent hotels typically pay 15-18% commissions to external travel agencies, such as Expedia and Travelocity, for bookings.

He said about 70 percent of Hilton guests book directly through Hilton.

Leddy, 44, said he visited the hotel a number of times when it came to a chain and always thought he would like to make it look good again.

“I am extremely happy to reintroduce this great hotel to San Antonio,” he said.

randy.diamond@express-news.net


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