Volume 23, Number 9 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 9 - 15, 2010
Surge in hotels may be positive sign
BY Aline Reynolds
Lower Manhattan, deemed one of the fastest-growing residential neighborhoods in the city, has also become a hotspot for businessmen and tourists, according to a new study released last Thursday by the Alliance for Downtown New York.
Nearly 6 million people a year visit Lower Manhattan, compared to 4.4 million in 2005, and the number of hotels has tripled since 2001, according to the Downtown Alliance. The study also revealed that the number of hotel rooms in the district has increased by more than 60 percent.
“The volume of investment pouring into Downtown’s hospitality is further proof that Lower Manhattan is now New York City’s most desirable and dynamic location,” said Elizabeth Berger, President of Downtown Alliance, in a statement.
This report follows a recent Downtown Alliance survey that tracked a near quadrupling of the area’s residents in the past 15 years. According to the survey, an estimated 55,000 individuals currently reside south of Chambers Street, compared to 24,000 in 2001 and 14,000 in 1995.
“Downtown’s hotel boom is a reflection of an increased and diverse market in the district,” said Berger. “Business travelers remain a significant market element, but the growth of leisure visitors and special events shows that Lower Manhattan is a destination of choice in the region, nationally and around the world.”
Hotels built since January include the 169-room World Center Hotel (144 Washington Street), which opened in June; the 112-room Holiday Inn Express (126 Water Street), which opened in May; and the 253-room Andaz Hyatt Wall Street (75 Wall Street), which opened in January.
Andaz, one of the newcomers on the block, attempts to provide the ultimate hotel experience by removing the barriers between employee and guest, and between hotel and domicile. “We’re hoping that people feel like they’ve been invited into a friends’ room, instead of the traditional hotel experience,” said Rachel Harrison, Director of Public Relations at Andaz.
Guests entering the hotel’s lounge area on the first floor are greeted by a host that can complete the check-in process right on the spot with a portable tablet PC. Guests are also offered a complimentary glass of wine or coffee on the way to their rooms.
Unlike other hotels in the area, Andaz offers complimentary water and snacks in all of its rooms, in addition to free Internet, Harrison said. “They should treat the hotel like being in a friend’s home – that translates all the way to their rooms,” said Harrison.
While Monday through Wednesday principally attracts business-traveler clientele, Andaz’s weekend visitors are mainly tourists, Harrison reported.
The surge in Downtown hotels has some hotel managers worried. Pablo Migoya, General Manager of Gild Hall, fears the competition among the new hotels in the vicinity. “The increase in supply [of visitors] remains a real concern to us,” he said. “At the end of the day, there are big hotels opening up in the area that will be fighting for the same corporate travelers…as we do,” he said. Gild Hall, moreover, has primarily traveling workers as clientele, lacking in the number of out-of-town tourists that parent company Thompson’s other Manhattan hotel locations attract.
To keep its guests coming back, Gild Hall equips its rooms with the latest bells and whistles: flat-screen high-definition TVs, leather furniture and Sferra linens, just to name a few. Gild Hall’s customer service model is “all about touching the senses,” Migoya said. The hotel also maintains a high employee-guest ratio, and constantly changes the menu of its restaurant, The Libertine, to diners’ requests.
Though constantly “under threat” with new hotels sprouting in the area, Gild Hall is not only staying afloat, but also prospering. “We try to make sure that our guests staying here walk away with a great experience that they…tell 10 other people about,” he said.
And it seems to be working.