ALHI Brand Update: Dynamic Player in Luxury

Meeting Planning

It’s a dynamic, vital player in the meetings industry, representing many of the top luxury hotels and resorts throughout the world while helping to organize meetings and events. Although many attendees might not be familiar with it, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) is pretty much a household name among meeting planners and incentive specialists—and it’s rapidly expanding its portfolio.

“We have not experienced any ‘down’ years in the last decade on the volume of group business we have generated for our hotels and resorts,” says CEO David Gabri. “On the contrary, ALHI has experienced significant demand growth, which has been accelerating during the past few years. That’s why we’ve just opened our 19th and 20th professionally staffed sales offices in North America.”

During the past two years, ALHI, which provides sales and marketing services to luxury properties, also has added 28 hotels and resorts to its portfolio. It now has 162 AAA Four Diamond and Five Diamond properties, which provide 115,000 guest rooms and 10 million sq. ft. of meeting space. Since it was created in 1986, ALHI has represented mostly independent hotels and resorts, as well as emerging brands. Gabri attributes much of the company’s success to its sales team.

“Our global sales professionals are advocates for our clients to secure their desired venues, dates and good values that help their cause,” he says. “By putting the clients’ needs first, we have built a reputation for honesty, support and teamwork, and a partnership for success that has grown over nearly three decades. It helps to have the best portfolio for meeting and incentive business anywhere, of course.”

This past October, the company published the 2014 ALHI Global Sales Guide to Meeting Facilities, a 188-page guide to its hotels and resorts. Meeting planners, association executives and incentive specialists can request free copies of the guide by contacting their ALHI global sales office, calling the ALHI Group Desk toll-free at 866-303-2544 or visiting alhi.com.

The company divides its properties into 12 specialty segments: Level 5 Collection, Big Box Solutions, Caribbean Collection (new in 2013), City Solutions, Mountain Collection, Ocean Line (new in 2013), Entertainment and Gaming Solutions, Golf Collection, U-200 Gems, Beach & Island Collection, Historic Collection and Passport Collection. The first four are particularly relevant to meeting planners.

Level  5 Collection

Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Va.

This specialty segment features 29 (all but six in North America) of the company’s hotels that have earned the highest and most prestigious awards, such as the highly coveted AAA Five Diamond rating and the prestigious Forbes Five Star rating.

“The Level 5 Collection is the creme de la creme of luxury hotels throughout the world,” says Chris Riccardi, division vice president for AHLI’s western United States properties. “This specialty segment enables planners who wish to conduct truly special programs to easily identify the properties that will suit their unique desires and objectives. But both leisure and group demand is up in this segment, so meeting planners need to plan well in advance and have several date options when searching for programs. Flexibility and planning in advance are key.”

The newest addition to the Level 5 Collection is Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Va., which opened in August 13 with 168 guest rooms and 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The resort is set on 340 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, amid Virginia’s famed horse and wine country.

Some of the specialty segment’s resorts recently have undergone major renovations. Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa in Cancun, Mexico, finished such work in 540 of its 602 guest rooms this past June. It also provides 85,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Island Hotel Newport Beach in California offers 295 guest rooms and more than 25,000 sq. ft. of newly designed, flexible indoor/outdoor meeting space and plans to open a new restaurant and bar in mid-2014. The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, Calif., completed a renovation of the Golf Pavilion’s 7,000-square-foot event space in April 2013. The resort now offers 332 guest rooms and 44,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Riccardi says the Level 5 Collection is working on providing additional activity options for its incentive-traveler guests. “Incentive programs now include attendees from a wide age range, so hotels need to be prepared to offer activities that meet the needs of all of these attendees,” he says. “Groups have everything from adventurous thrill-seekers to those who just want a more relaxing experience. So our hotels are developing a wider menu of choices, knowing that their guests are looking to experience activities that they would not normally do.”

Big Box Solutions

Loews Miami Beach Hotel

This collection consists of 25 supersized hotels and resorts—all in North America except for one in Dubai. Each of the hotels and resorts has a minimum of 500 guest rooms, 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and one or more ballrooms with 20,000 or more sq. ft.

“Our specialty segment makes it easy for planners coordinating large conventions, meetings and programs to quickly see the impressive variety of four diamond- and five diamond-quality hotels and resorts around the world that will suit their program’s specific needs,” says Ashly Balding, ALHI’s division vice president for the organization’s eastern United States properties.

Several of the specialty segment’s hotels and resorts recently have completed or begun renovation projects. This past fall, Loews Miami Beach Hotel, with 790 guest rooms and 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, added state-of-the-art poolside cabanas and daybeds as well as the yacht-themed Lure Fishbar. The Mirage in Las Vegas (3,044 guest rooms and 170,000 sq. ft.)  just wrapped up renovations that included upgrading Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, installing fresh carpeting in the casino and opening new restaurants.

Also this year, MGM Las Vegas opened Hakkasan restaurant and nightclub, which provides an upscale dining experience in a nightlife atmosphere. In September of 2012, the resort completed a $160 million renovation of its 5,034 guest rooms.

Caribbean Collection

Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, Jamaica

After seeing a significant expansion of Caribbean members in its portfolio, this past September ALHI launched this specialty segment, which includes 22 properties scattered among 11 countries and territories. Collectively, the properties provide more than 12,000 rooms and more than 500,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

“We have the Caribbean’s largest luxury-level portfolio that serves the meetings and incentives marketplace,” said Don Macumber, vice president of ALHI’s global division. “Caribbean meetings and incentive programs are on the upswing, and ALHI is poised to assist planners with incredible meeting and incentive options in the region.”

ALHI was chosen in 2013 to represent Sandals Resorts International’s new Luxury Meeting & Incentives Collection, consisting of nine Caribbean resorts: three

in Jamaica; two in the  Bahamas; and one each in Antigua, Grenada, St. Lucia and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Grenada property—Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa in St. George’s—is scheduled to open this month, with 225 rooms, nine restaurants and 965 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Also opening in 2013 were the One&Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, a once-private beachfront estate featuring 105 guest rooms and more than 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Nieuwpoort in Curacao, with 350 guest rooms and 38,000 sq. ft.; and Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort & Spa in Panama City, with 105 guest rooms and 13,858 sq. ft.

City Solutions

This specialty segment is widely recognized for its hotels in the center of large cities, but that’s only part of its identity. “In addition to featuring options in large metropolitan destinations such as New York City, Chicago and Miami, City Solutions has many fantastic choices in smaller cities,” says Jim Schultenover, president of ALHI. “The smaller cities typically provide a great value and often are very accessible. These properties also often have availability when the major markets are booked.”

The Langham Chicago

Schultenover says the City Solutions hotels are particularly attractive to planners. “This specialty segment is designed to make it easier for them to quickly identify viable options,” he added. “There are many benefits to conducting meetings and programs at city hotels, including the fact that they often provide easier and timelier access for attendees. Plus, groups can experience the vast entertainment, cultural, dining and business-related offerings of the cities.”

City Solutions has 62 hotels and resorts—51 in the United States, four in China, three in Canada, two in Australia, and one each in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Four new hotels have been added in the past 18 months. Loews Hollywood Hotel, acquired in June 2012 from Loews Hotels & Resorts, underwent a $26 million renovation and provides 632 guest rooms and 120,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Loews Boston Hotel, obtained from the same company this past February, features 225 guest rooms and 3,200 sq. ft. and is in the midst of an $8 million renovation.

Also, The Langham Chicago, offering 316 guest rooms and 15,000 ft. of space, opened this past July, and the Hotel Sorella Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., with 132 guest rooms and 5,700 sq. ft. of space, opened in November.

Looking Ahead

The expansion of ALHI’s property portfolio shows no signs of slowing down; many long-term properties are undergoing renovations. These improvements, in turn, are expected to increase the company’s business, which could require hiring additional staff members.

“We may continue our expansion of global sales professionals [staffing] in order to address the growing business demand we’re experiencing from meeting professionals, association executives, incentive-travel specialists and business executives,” Gabri says.

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