Millennium Hotels & Resorts, the North American arm of London-based Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, is just shy of turning 14 but has already grown its eclectic portfolio to 13 properties in key cities and resort markets. Now, as it looks to plant more flags, the company has begun investing million of dollars into renovating its hotels, while culling a few that were not up to brand standard. This week, The Hotel Insider caught up with Colin Wang, regional general manager, North America, to get an inside perspective on what to expect from this U.K. transplant.
Are these renovations part of a broader re-branding strategy?
This is not a branding exercise for us. You have to work to keep your hotels in good shape, and we are making that investment. We put $22 million into the Millennium Hotel Minneapolis last year and $30 million into One UN New York, and we are going to continue to make investments across the brand.
What went wrong with the Millennium St. Louis, which you closed this past January?
It was not meeting our standards. We are working hard with the CVB and the mayor to see how we can develop that land. We are also looking closely at other properties and evaluating our options in the city. It was one of our largest hotels, 780 rooms, but we didn't believe the market really needed a property that size.
You have an interesting mix of urban hotels and resort properties. What are Millennium's expansion plans?
We are in good markets now, like Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. But we are missing hotels in key gateway cities such as San Francisco, Miami and Texas. Those are all good markets we want to be in. Our goal is to expand primarily through conversions, but should any good opportunities come up in resort markets, our ownership will evaluate them as well.
Who do you consider your competition?
Our comp set varies by market. We are very unique. No two of our hotels are alike, so that makes our market competition very wide. For instance, the Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles is a historic property that dates to 1923. Right now we are putting together some mock-up renovated guest rooms for it, but with a historic property you have to proceed very carefully, otherwise you hurt its historical charm.
You just acquired the 480-room Novotel Times Square last month for $236 million. Are you going to rebrand it under the Millennium name?
We are not rebranding that hotel, because it is currently under a long term management lease. Right now that hotel, with its great location, will be a fantastic addition to our portfolio.
As part of your expansion efforts, are there any plans to expand the sales force?
Right now I think our sales force is in good shape. We have our own in-house sales people at each hotel, as well as regional teams. The recent renovations and investment in the portfolio, which we will continue to roll out over the next 12 to 18 months, have generated a lot of excitement within our team.