Tourism & Cruises

Hotel brands like Miami better than New York for first U.S. sites

The view from the pool deck at Atton Brickell Miami. The new hotel by Chilean brand Atton, which is branching out into the U.S. with it’s first hotel in Brickell.
The view from the pool deck at Atton Brickell Miami. The new hotel by Chilean brand Atton, which is branching out into the U.S. with it’s first hotel in Brickell. jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

To the eyes of hoteliers around the world, Miami has grown up to be the attractive, well-positioned global city they hoped it would be.

With all the factors now aligned, they are packing their bags for South Florida.

Five international hotel brands will open their local properties before the end of next month. Another is scheduled to open in 2018. The new names: Atton, EAST, Fasano, Meliá, Pullman and Roam.

Each is picking Miami as their first U.S. outpost, over longtime stalwarts such as New York and Los Angeles, together forming the largest influx of international brands in recent years.

The city has the ideal ingredients investors crave: Global recognition, diverse clientele, affordable (enough) prices and a budding arts scene.

“Miami is capturing all its potential,” said Francisco Levine, CEO of Chile’s Atton Hotels, which is opening its first U.S. location in Brickell on July 1. “It is so conveniently well-located in the region, it has the good weather, so it’s appealing for Americans, it’s appealing for Latin Americans, and that all creates a virtuous cycle of nurturing all these tourism and artistic advancements.”

Having the keys to Latin America remains a central differntiator that gives Miami a boost over other U.S. destinations. Despite an economic downturn, more Brazilians came than any other group in 2015, accounting for nearly 750,000 visitors, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In Miami, especially the beach, there is a lot less competition and you can get a better read of how your product is doing rather than New York where you have six or seven hotels in each block.

Robert Finvarb, CEO of a real estate investment and development company

“Most Latin Americans come through Miami, so there is a big synergy there with branding and brand awareness and distribution,” Levine said. “Miami does well when Latin America does well and when Latin America does poorly.”

But the strong relationship between Miami and Latin America isn’t new. What is new is the destination’s growing global resonance.

 

Case in point: The majority of the new brands are not from Latin America.

Miami as an international city — not an extension of a Latin American city — is what’s making it attractive to hotel brands from other corners of the world, too.

Nearly half of all of Miami’s tourists last year were international. The city welcomed 7.5 million international travelers in 2015, up 3.4 percent from the previous year, according to the tourism bureau.

The reasons newcomers are choosing Miami:

▪ Spain’s ME by Meliá brand is drawn by a blossoming arts and culture scene.

▪ France’s Pullman Hotels chose Miami because the destination has global appeal and ties to the brand (parent company AccorHotels had a Sofitel hotel by Miami International Airport that was converted to a Pullman property).

▪ Roam, a co-living start-up with a first location in Bali, found the right property and the right ambiance for a project unlike any other.

▪ Business traveler-focused Atton and luxury brand Fasano want to leverage Miami’s Latin American connection.

▪ Asian brand EAST is bringing a hotel as part of its Brickell City Centre development.

The new brands will be able to charge some of the highest room rates in the country: In 2015, the average room rate was $195.75 a night, the fourth highest in the U.S. and an increase of almost 6 percent from 2014.

That makes Miami competitive against other top markets such as New York, which has the highest room rates in the nation, but where property values and hotel saturation make investing difficult, said Robert Finvarb, CEO of real estate investment and development company Robert Finvarb Companies.

“In Miami, especially the beach, there is a lot less competition [than other major markets] and you can get a better read of how your product is doing rather than New York where you have six or seven hotels in each block,” Finvarb said.

1,175 Number of rooms added to Miami’s hotel market by six international brands coming within the next two years

“Miami is such a great proving ground for concepts, whether it’s hotel or other industries, and it speaks to our DNA, our diversity and our eclecticism,” added Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the tourism bureau.

Perhaps the greatest indicator of Miami’s evolution, experts suggest, is a new co-living concept making its home at the historical Miami River Inn.

New York-based start-up Roam, designed to give remote workers a place to stay and engage with each other, only had one other location, Bali, until co-founder and CEO Bruno Haid heard of the former boarding house built in 1906 in Miami. He partnered with local developer Avra Jain, who fully renovated the property, and turned it into Roam’s U.S. flagship.

“This is about the young people wanting a place to be more experiential than having big spaces where they are not there all day,” Jain said. “That it’s happening here in Miami first speaks to how forward-thinking Miami is right now.”

Four houses, painted in pastel shades of yellow, pink, blue and green, each cater to an aspect of the Roam experience: Co-live, co-work, co-relax and co-eat. Guests can stay in one of the 38 rooms at $500 a week or $1,800 a month. It’s part Airbnb, part hotel, part residential, with a more consistent experience and a communal mindset. Roam opened a third location, in Madrid, this month.

Innovation is visible in other Miami ventures, Jain said, such as Art Basel, tech conference eMerge Americas and new attractions, including the Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

The whole city is feeling the pulse of design right now, and designers are coming from all over the place.

Olivier Servat, general manager of ME Miami

It is the arts scene that brought Meliá across the Atlantic.

“The whole city is feeling the pulse of design right now, and designers are coming from all over the place,” said Olivier Servat, general manager of ME Miami, in an interview early this year. “We want to take the pulse of what it is to be to be in Miami. We want our guests, when they are coming to the destination, to feel the destination within the hotel.”

That’s the ethos of the ME by Meliá brand, which looks to set roots in “global capitals of culture and cool,” the brand says on its website. It has seven other hotels in Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Ibiza, London, Madrid, Mallorca and Milan.

When the 129-room U.S. property opens next month, it will be on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami, immediately across from the new museums and near the social hubs in Wynwood and the Design District.

The beach still has its allure, particularly for Brazilian brand Fasano, which is opening the Fasano Residences + Hotel Miami Beach at the iconic oceanfront Shore Club hotel. Scheduled to open in 2018, it’s the culmination of nearly a decade of searching for the right location in the U.S., said Rogerio Fasano, chairman of the company and a fourth-generation family member.

“I think in Brazil we are almost where we really want to be,” Fasano said. “After that, the next step is going to America because of the number of Brazilians that spend a lot of time and money in New York and Miami. It’s a very lively city, full of new things, full of cultural things that are now going on. It's very different than Miami 30 years ago.”

From a quieter corner of Brickell, across the 7.8-acre Simpson Park, that image of Miami from an international hotelier’s point of view is almost perceptible. From the floor-to-ceiling windows in a corner executive suite at Atton Brickell Miami, the cranes of Brickell development, protected park sanctuary and the ocean beyond are part of the view. A Metrorail line crosses below.

It’s a very alive city, full of new things, full of cultural things now going on, very different than Miami 30 years ago.

Rogerio Fasano, chairman of Fasano

Efforts to create more transit options, such as the Brightline train between Miami and Orlando, is one of the many selling points for Miami, said Karyl Argamasilla, an attorney with the hotel group at local law firm Bilzin Sumberg.

“It’s becoming more of a walkable city, more connected city. These hotel brands are taking advantage of that and they are placing themselves in these strategic places for these types [of ventures],” she said.

Atton CEO Levine first came to Miami 20 years ago, he said, before connectivity and before ideas of expanding to the U.S.

Now, though, “we are coming at a good moment,” Levine said. “For us, Miami was the first choice.”

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