NEWH - November 2003 - (Page 35)

developing boutique hotels in historic structures... by: Tom LaTour Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants Canada and its combination of boutique, four-star service and an adjacent destination restaurant is a great success. Kimpton has extensive expertise in the field of adaptive reuse and has transformed many types of structures into boutique hotels. The company recently opened the Hotel Monaco, Washington, DC and the Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco- both housed in historically significant buildings. In developing these hotels, Kimpton also worked with government agencies. Following is a Q & A with Tom LaTour, Chairman & CEO of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants highlighting various aspects of these unique projects. His personal foray into the hospitality business began in 1981 in San Francisco with the Bedford Hotel on Union Square. Bill pioneered the concept of “boutique hotel.” That concept was in one respect fairly simple: Taking an older property with good bones, renovating it to create a unique non-chain experience and combining it with superior customer service. Yet, the concept could not have been too simple — Bill’s Bedford Hotel flopped. How did Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants get into the business of transforming historic buildings into boutique hotels? Bill Kimpton always said, “We are all insecure. It’s just a matter of degree. A hotel should relieve travelers of their insecurity and loneliness. It should make them feel warm and cozy.” Bill came to hotels as an avocation. It is said that as a child playing monopoly, rather than acquiring property and collecting rents, Bill loved getting to the point of “building hotels.” Perhaps ironically, his college major was economics and he spent considerable years as an investment banker. During his years at Lehman Brothers, Bill worked closely with New York hotelier Harry Helmsley and came to understand the hotel business. It is this left brain-right brain combination of understanding the money and understanding the customer that allowed Bill to excel. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is a San Francisco-based company known for its collection of stylish boutique hotels that are coupled with fine chef-driven restaurants. Founded in 1981, the company currently operates 38 hotels and 39 restaurants across the United States and Undeterred, over the next fifteen years, Bill and I continued to perfect the core strategy - building a highly profitable collection of mostly small hotels stretching from San Francisco to New York City, each one designed in a unique high style and operated with playful charm. Traveling executives looking for an alternative to the generic, and upscale tourists looking for an experience, liked this formula of historic buildings, bold-interior design and personal attention to detail. So much so, that they drove our hotels’ occupancy rates well above the industry average. Meanwhile, locals stood in line to get into the restaurants. What is your strategy for creating a boutique hotel in a historic building? Today, Kimpton Boutique Hotels has grown to include 38 hotels and 39 restaurants in 14 cities. We have over 6,500 rooms. In each instance, we adapt our product to balance the needs of the market and the opportunity the building provides. A critical element in our formula is the ability to find a historic building and rehabilitate it using federal tax credits for historic preservation. Early on, we focused on older 35

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NEWH - November 2003

NEWH - November 2003
Letter From the Editor
Hospitality News
On the Road Again... IHM&RS Show
Tips on Specs... Guestroom Lighting
Spotlight on the UK
Spotlight on Greater New York
Random Thoughts... Designing Today’s Boutique
Boutique Chain – Is It an Oxymoron?
Developing Boutique Hotels in Historic Structures
Unique Boutiques... The Story of Watertown
Approaching the Design of a Boutique Hotel
What Sets a Boutique Apart from the Rest?
Simplifying CEU’s
Small Business Advice
Industry Partner Education
Sources & Credits

NEWH - November 2003