Hilton to run Anatole
Management change expected to help boost convention business
06:42 AM CST on Monday, December 12, 2005
By SUZANNE MARTA / The Dallas Morning News
Hilton Hotels Corp. is expected to announce today that it will take over management of the Wyndham Anatole hotel, a change that may boost Dallas' ability to attract convention business.
"This gives us access to a whole group of customers we haven't had before," said Tom Faust, the hotel's vice president of sales and marketing.
With more than 2,300 hotels under various brands, Hilton's sales reach is significantly broader than Wyndham's, which now operates about 100 properties.
"The resources we'll have with Hilton, particularly on the group side, are extraordinarily better," Mr. Faust said.
Phillip Jones, chief executive of the Dallas Convention &Visitors Bureau, said Hilton's national sales force would help raise awareness for Dallas.
"We'll have the biggest Hilton in Texas," Mr. Jones said. "That's an important selling point."
Dallas is one of only a handful of large cities that don't have all four of the industry's largest hotel brands operating – and selling – downtown properties.
Hyatt operates a large convention-style property downtown, but Hilton and Marriott have been absent from the downtown convention market.
Starwood, another major industry player, operates the Westin City Center, which focuses more business travel and smaller group meetings. Its 33-story W Dallas in Hillwood's Victory is expected to open next summer.
Having major brands in the downtown area is critical because more companies are selling multi-year contracts that rotate among cities, but under the same hotel company.
"In the past, Hilton's national office could sell Houston and Austin, but not Dallas," Mr. Jones said. "Now, Dallas, can be in a rotation with other cities."
Under the deal with Hilton, the Anatole will undergo $30 million in renovations to its meeting space and tower rooms over the next two years. The property's staff and management are expected to remain in place.
For Hilton, the management contract extends the company's reach in Texas, where it already has major convention properties in Houston and Austin.
"This really fills a void for us," said Ken Smith, a senior vice president of operations for Hilton, which is based in Beverly Hills, Calif. "We'll be able to sell to more national groups now."
Hilton hasn't had a presence in the downtown convention market since the mid-1980s, with the Hilton Statler hotel on Commerce Street. The company operates about 20 hotels in the area under several brands, and 2,300 worldwide.
Dallas-based Crow Holdings, which owns the Anatole, considered proposals from four major hotel brands before settling on Hilton. Wyndham has managed the hotel since 1995.
Chief executive Harlan Crow said Hilton's management proved a better fit for the 1,606-room hotel and meetings complex.
"The Wyndham brand has recently shifted away from large convention properties," Mr. Crow said Sunday.
A change in hotel management is not uncommon after a brand has been sold.
Dallas-based Wyndham International Inc. was sold to private equity firm the Blackstone Group in August in a deal worth $3.24 billion. Immediately after the deal closed, the firm carved 14 of the brand's trophy properties and resorts and combined them with other resort holdings to create the LXR Luxury Resorts brand.
The Wyndham brand and franchise system were sold to Cendant Corp. for $100 million in September, and it is now known as Wyndham Worldwide.
Aging Dallas hotel gets re-energized
Aristocrat gets $5M redo and rebranding
Downtown Dallas' revival fever has spread to one of its historic hotels.
The Aristocrat Hotel -- on the corner of Main Street at Harwood Avenue -- will become Hotel Indigo, a boutique hotel chain franchised by InterContinental Hotels Group.
Hotel Indigo bills itself as a "lifestyle" hotel aimed at both the upwardly mobile crowd and the upscale lodger who values the experience as much as the hotel basics, according to Jim Anhut, senior vice president of brand development for Intercontinental Hotels Group.
Under the Hotel Indigo flag, hotel rooms will cost $130 to $140 a night -- at the higher end of the downtown hotel market.
Renovations began soon after the 14-story Aristocrat was acquired by Richmond, Va.-based Bijoy L.L.C. in August. Bijoy is spending $5 million on the hotel conversion, which will be complete by spring 2006.
"The hotel has great potential but it was neglected. We plan to reposition it in the market," said Subil Bhattal, general manager at the Aristocrat, which currently is operating as a Holiday Inn.
Texas is set to have several Hotel Indigos, including one in downtown Fort Worth, where the Clarion Hotel is being converted to a Hotel Indigo by Lubbock-based Pearl Investments.
To date, the only other cities with Hotel Indigos are Atlanta, with one, and Chicago, with two.
The Aristocrat is an ideal match for the hotel chain, which targets existing hotels, Anhut said.
"We love what is happening in the in-town city centers across the country -- the general activity and the regentrification of wonderful old buildings," Anhut said.
The hotel was built in 1925 by Conrad Hilton and was the first high-rise hotel in Texas and the first to be branded a Hilton. It is a designated city landmark.
Downtown continues to be a difficult market for all hotel operators, regardless of the type of property, said Greg Crown, of PKF Consulting in Dallas, a hospitality research and consulting firm.
Occupancy in the downtown market year-to-date is in the upper 50% range, in part due to hurricane evacuees, up from the past four years' low 50% range.
Downtown's main challenge is its soft office market coupled with a lack of convention business, Crown said.
Bhattal sees an upside.
"Given the location and everything happening downtown, we felt it was a good time to restore the hotel," Bhattal said.
Renovations include cosmetic changes such as new furniture and fixtures and a reconfiguration of the guest lobby, restaurant and guest rooms. This will be the hotel's first renovation since 1995. The number of guest rooms will be pared down from 172 to 169.
The property's interior will boast hardwood floors, spa-like guest bathrooms, a business center and an upgraded fitness area. The hotel's 3,000 square feet of meeting space will also be redone.
With the exception of new awnings and a cleaning, the exterior of the hotel will stay the same.
The hotel's full-service restaurant will become The Golden Bean, and will serve Starbucks coffee.
The hotel is expected to stay open during the renovations, Bhattal said.