Hyatt is Growing; New Brand in Discussion

Thirty years is a long time to be with one company. Especially in the cyclical business of hotels where trends come and go, design schemes change and properties are bought, sold, then sometimes even bought again. So when Carlos Cabrera, a 30-year veteran with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and its current senior vice president of field operations, says that never in his tenure has he seen such activity as with Hyatt right now, you tend to hang on every word. And, when he suggests an altogether new Hyatt brand is on the horizon, you lean in a little closer. Hyatt recently purchased London's Great Eastern Hotel

Travel Agent got a glimpse of the flurry to come at the grand opening of the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa in Weston, FL. After a $100 million renovation, the hotel is raring to go and, according to Cabrera, it's a harbinger of things to expect from Hyatt.

"We're really trying to actively grow and further establish our brands," explains Cabrera. The Caribbean tends to be a point of interest for many hoteliers and Hyatt is no exception. The 428-room Hyatt Regency Trinidad is slated to open in Jan. 2008 after three years of construction, a part of a mixed-use development project along the waterfront of Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital. Subsequently, Hyatt Regency Curaçao will open in 2009. The 350-room property will be the largest hotel on the island.

Other Caribbean development could be in the works. "We've pitched deals in Barbados and Jamaica among others," says Cabrera. "There have been a lot of discussions because we want to actively grow in the Caribbean. We've kind of shrunk there."

Part of that compression can be chalked up to two Hyatt closings in Puerto Rico, DoradoBeach and Saramar. "The hotels were old and inferior products by today's standards," says Cabrera, though noting that Hyatt still owns the DoradoBeach's property, and that more than likely the company would develop something there.

Stateside, Hyatt is committed to growing its select-service Hyatt Place brand, which are conversions from the AmeriSuites brand it acquired two years ago; and Summerfield Suites, its entry into the extended-stay sector. "The two brands are having explosive growth," Cabrera gleefully says. "We're looking to have 500 Hyatt Places in the next couple of years."

Hyatt has some other noteworthy projects brewing, and if all come into fruition, Hyatt will be closer to attaining the level of growth needed to stay competitive with the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world.

Hyatt's Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino in Las Vegas will have more than 1,000 rooms and 1,600 condo units. The property will be the first Grand Hyatt brand in Las Vegas. Crossing eastward, Cabrera says that Hyatt is looking into a new project in Miami's South Beach. He couldn't elaborate on it, but alluded to a room total of about 400. In New York, Hyatt made a pitch to build a 75-story hotel that would accompany the $1.6 billion expansion of the JacobJavitsConvention Center, scheduled for completion by 2010. Cabrera said Hyatt is in the running along with two other hotel operators for the contract.

Further intriguing is the trend of Hyatt's buying properties. While many chains such as Starwood and Hilton have been selling off properties, Hyatt still owns a third of its portfolio in the U.S., part of Hyatt Equities. Cabrera says that currently every Hyatt Equities property is in some stage of renovation.

That penchant for acquisition remains a constant for Hyatt. The company recently purchased London's Great Eastern Hotel, which will become one of the Hyatt brands, and according to Cabrera, just bought a building in New York. Its exact location was not disclosed, but we did learn that it is tentatively being called "458" and that it will be converted into a new style of hotel. "A new Hyatt brand is being discussed," Cabrera intimated, "so it's an exciting time for the company."

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