Art Basel

Art Basel brings full rooms, high rates to Miami Beach hotels

Hotels in Miami-Dade are full this week — of guests, art and events.

In some cases, they’re even being taken over. See: Lords South Beach at 1120 Collins Avenue, which has been turned from a sunny hotel into an intimidating, super-sized, crowd-interacting black dog.

“At night, when it’s talking, it’s so funny to watch people walk by and do the double take,” said Brian Gorman, the hotel’s founder.

The installation by Desi Santiago, formally called Perrier Presents: The Black Lords at Lords South Beach, shows how local hotels have embraced the week surrounding Art Basel Miami Beach as more than an opportunity to fill rooms.

Though they do that as well.

George Cozonis, general manager of W South Beach, said many guests have been staying at the hotel for Art Basel week since it opened in 2009.

“And they know what their favorite room is and they have gotten to know the staff, so one of the things they do before they leave is say, ‘I’d like to get the same room for next year,’ ” he said. “Many of our bookings happen during or right after [Art Basel]. By July, everything is booked.”

By midweek, only a few rooms remained for Saturday night with weeknights sold out at rates that started at $1,209 and topped out at $9,500 a night.

Hotels countywide are reporting about 90 percent occupancy, according to a preliminary survey by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. That’s a slight increase from last year’s 89 percent occupancy.

Nicholas Christopher, president and owner of official Art Basel travel agency Turon Travel, said rates in general are slightly higher than last year. He said most of the visitors are booked through Friday or Saturday, so some availability (and lower prices) could return by the weekend.

The hotels getting the most buzz are recently relaunched properties such as the SLS and James Royal Palm, he said. Both properties say they are sold out, with average rates over $1,000 a night at SLS and rooms going for $700-$3,500 at the James Royal Palm, which opened in early November.

The 87-room Gale South Beach & Regent Hotel cut it even closer, opening Tuesday.

“We knew we were going to be on schedule,” said Jared Galbut, managing principal of Menin Hotels, which also includes the sold-out Shelborne, Sanctuary and Bentley hotels. “We knew we had reservations; we made it clear to the contractor that it’s not an option to not be open.”

Opening-week prices at the hotel range from $500 to $800, Galbut said, about $150 more than what will be normal for the season.

At the other end of the price spectrum, Freehand Miami, an upscale hostel at 2727 Indian Creek Drive that opened this week, is also sold out with prices that start around $50 to $75 a night per person. Andrew Zobler, CEO of Freehand owner Sydell Group, said many guests are members of the press and artists.

“It’s really perfect for something like Basel where there’s so much going on,” he said. “They’re coming down for three days and probably sleeping four hours a night.”

Like many other properties, the hostel is hosting events every night, presenting almost unlimited options for out-of-towners after the art fairs close.

Mandarin Oriental, Miami on Brickell Key debuts an exhibition of contemporary Asian art in the lobby Thursday night. The Gale South Beach is hosting some events that don’t start until midnight.

At Dream South Beach, 1111 Collins Avenue, rock and jazz photography from the Morrison Hotel Gallery will be featured at the hotel, which also hosts events Thursday and Friday.

Brendan McNamara, senior vice president of brand development for Dream Hotels, said it’s important for lifestyle hotels to embrace major happenings like Art Basel and join the creative buzz. He praised the installation at the nearby Lords South Beach as well as a project called “Plane Text,” featuring a plane trailing messages, put on by Delano owner Morgans Hotel Group.

“It’s almost less competitive and it becomes this love fest of art,” he said.