Loews Miami Beach set to make $50 million in renovations in down economy
By Scott E. Pacheco
The Loews Miami Beach Hotel is planning a $50 million renovation to begin June 1 and wrap up by early November.
The investment — during an economic recession — is about one-third of the cost to build the hotel about 10 years ago, said Shawn Hauver, managing director of the hotel.
"The hotel has sort of come full-circle. As other hotels are continuing to struggle… it makes a pretty bold statement to invest $50 million," said Mr. Hauver, who has been with the hotel for nine of its 10 years.
Renovations are to come a few floors at a time. The hotel won't close during the work, he said. Changes and upgrades include:
Total guestroom renovation, including bathrooms, which is "pretty unusual for a 10-year hotel — usually bathrooms are a 20- to 25-year mark," Mr. Hauver said.
Port-a-cachere is to be significantly enhanced to improve sense of arrival.
A spiral staircase in the lobby will be removed to make way for retail space. Already, Sushi SoBe has opened.
nNew cabanas at the pool. Permanent cabanas with air conditioning, bathrooms, a living room area and sun deck will replace the current tent-like structures.
While Mr. Hauver said the Loews hasn't been immune to some of the recession's pain, he insists the future looks bright.
And it helps to be in South Florida, which has shown greater resiliency in the face of economic decline than other parts of the state.
Hotels in Greater Orlando staggered in November, with just 53% occupancy. There are about 440 hotels and more than 111,000 guest rooms in that area, according to Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Occupancy fell nearly 10% from November 2007, tied to a 22.7% drop in revenue per available room.
But that doesn't equate to Miami, said Stuart Blumberg, president and CEO of The Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association.
"In actuality, when you put 2,000 rooms into an inventory, even in good economic times there is going to be a little bit of a drop-off," he said. "Right now we are filling up — it's not Orlando."
Including the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc and Epic, about 1,500 new hotel rooms are online. And the W South Beach Hotel is to open 408 rooms in May.
Still, Greater Miami has felt an overall drop-off, according to Smith Travel Research.
November occupancy was 69.5%, down 4.8% from November 2007; average daily room rate was $141.87, down 5.2%, and revenue per available room sat at $98.60, down 9.8%.
That said, revenue per room and room rates from January through November rose slightly.
"South Florida has not seen the reduction in occupancy numbers that Central Florida has — we are going to stick to our core principles," Mr. Hauver said. "We can't afford to skimp on service just because we are going to be facing some of the more difficult times in the past 10 years."
Loews' decision to do the renovations coincides with the hotel's 10th anniversary, which fell on Christmas Eve. A decade later, the hotel is largely responsible for South Beach booming the way it has, Mr. Blumberg said. "It triggered all the other hotels coming to the destination."