FORT LAUDERDALE, FL—B Hotels & Resorts has been growing its portfolio domestically for the past few years. While much of its initial expansion efforts have been concentrated in southern Florida, its vision of staking its flag into all major travel destinations is spearheading the need for the lifestyle hotel brand to pivot north.
“It was a great year for the brand in 2016,” said Ayelet Weinstein, CEO and president of B Hotels & Resorts, during an interview with Hotel Business. “It’s a year that our presence outside of Florida happens to be very noticeable. We also have new F&B experiences that are launching. There’s a lot going on, and we’re on the path to becoming a great alternative to lifestyle hospitality.”
After it completes renovations at a few of its existing properties, B Hotels & Resorts is expected to have nearly 1,200 guestrooms and suites available in five distinct locations: B Resort & Spa in Disney Springs in Orlando, FL; B Historic in Savannah, GA; Banana Bay Resort and Marina-an Unlimited Collection by B in Marathon, FL; B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale, FL; and B Hotel in New Orleans.
“If you go to each one of our properties, each one of them is very different—in terms of what the design is,” Weinstein said. “There is a common line of vacation and cleanliness in the design, but each property is a reflection of the destination.”
For example, inspired by Savannah’s rich culture, B Historic’s design attempts to tie together the combination of history and architecture with modern luxury and style to capture what the brand considers to be a “true southern hospitality experience.”
“You can see the transformation of the properties from when we take them to what the new product is,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that it’s the same place.”
The five-story brick building features 101 guestrooms and suites, all of which have been remodeled and equipped with custom-designed furnishings. The hotel’s restaurant and bar, Kitchen 3 Twenty, is set up with both communal- and single-dining options. Other amenities include a salt-water, non-chlorine interior pool; a fitness center; a spa suite; a digital touch-screen concierge and destination guide; and complimentary WiFi.
B Hotel in New Orleans will undergo a full remodel, with renovations beginning mid-October. Currently operated as Hotel 504, the property, acquired by InSite Group in 2015, is a historic building located on Canal St., just a few blocks from the French Quarter. It’s anticipated to relaunch as B Hotel in mid-2017 if all goes according to plan.
Once completed, the hotel will offer 157 guestrooms and suites, a reconfigured lobby and a meeting space. F&B offerings will include the addition of a signature restaurant. Other amenities expected to be available: a spa suite, a fitness center and free WiFi.
“It is going to be a great place to be when you come to this destination in terms of the whole experience—from the hotel and the rooms to the F&B. It’s going to be an experience that you want to live when you come to a great destination such as New Orleans,” Weinstein said. “It is going to be a beautiful place.”
Not all of the brand’s properties are running on schedule. B Ocean Resort, which is in the process of being transformed from the Yankee Clipper, Fort Lauderdale’s iconic hotel that’s shaped like a cruise ship, has been undergoing renovations since August 2015.
The property, which was expected to be completed in mid-2016, isn’t the typical renovation for the brand. “The scope of work was expanded in order to bring natural light into the space,” Weinstein noted. “A new staircase with a glass ceiling was developed in the middle of the lobby, creating a completely new ambiance and bringing a touch of style to the historic building. The design resulted in a big departure from the hotel’s look and feel in recent years, bringing the past into the future.”
With many of the brand’s properties still locked in various stages of the renovation process, it’s difficult to determine how well its locations are performing. Its Orlando property, B Resort & Spa in Disney Springs, which has been around for several years now, is “doing very well and exceeding the market by far,” she said.
Weinstein attributes this location’s success to the brand’s ability to design a stylish environment around “what the sophisticated traveler is looking for.” In addition to the hotel’s location—right in the Walt Disney World Resort—and amenities, other properties in the Orlando area don’t provide the same level of complexity for guests who are accustomed to the lifestyle experience when traveling, she suggested.
As far as properties, the brand doesn’t have any out west, but it’s open to locations in “all of the major destinations in the U.S., from east to west.”
Property negotiations the brand is currently involved in reflect a different outlook. “There are a few new hotels we’re working on—all of them in major destinations—but it’s premature for us to announce them at this point, but they’re outside of Florida,” Weinstein said. “We are basically going north now.”
B Hotels & Resorts’ immediate expansion plans aren’t unusual for lifestyle brands. Kim Bardoul, partner at The Highland Group, a hotel research firm, told Hotel Business that many lifestyle hotels are situated in cities such as New York, Boston and Baltimore because these brands are typically “best suited to heavily urban markets.”
While opening properties in these areas are appealing and fitting for most lifestyle brands, other markets north of the Sunshine State are also showing great promise. “I would chose to develop in a more underserved market,” she noted. “One that would have a strong tech corp core and a walkable area of restaurants such as Raleigh, NC.
In the upcoming year, B Hotels & Resorts expects to focus more on technological advances for its guests, specifically related to the check-in process. The lifestyle brand is also planning to launch its first rewards program for loyal guests. “We are working on that,” she said. The brand expects to announce further details in May 2017. HB