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PASSENGER SERVICES Last modified on December 26, 2016

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Rooms with a view: Denver International Airport’s new Westin hotel Rooms with a view: Denver International Airport’s new Westin hotel

Airport hotels are some of the most sought after concessions on the planet with the big chains boasting facilities at or around most of the world’s busiest airports, writes Joe Bates. 

With global passenger traffic at the world’s gateways set to double to 14.6 billion annually by 2029, the number of travellers seeking an overnight place to stay close to an airport is set to soar in the coming decades.

And with airport hotels having some of the highest, year-round occupancy levels in the world – statistics firm STR Global reveals that occupancy levels reached an all-time high of 72.3% last year – the appeal of on-site facilities to airports is obvious.

Arguably the most high profile airport hotel opening of the last year happened in Colorado with the unveiling of the 519-room Westin at Denver International Airport atop of the gateway’s new Transit Center.

Designed to resemble a bird in flight, the airport describes the 433,000 square foot, 14-story Westin Denver International Airport hotel as “a modern day oasis for both business and leisure travellers at the sixth busiest airport in the United States”. 

It cost the airport around $580 million to build and its facilities include a 37,500 square foot conference space and a 82,000 square foot open air plaza for arts and entertainment.
Westin Hotels & Resorts, an upscale hotel chain owned by Marriott International, has a 15-year management contract for the hotel, which recently collected three awards from the travel, hospitality and engineering industries despite only being open a year.

Denver International Airport CEO, Kim Day, enthuses: “The opening of the Westin Denver International Airport marked the completion of a vision for an on-airport hotel that began more than two decades ago.

“From the floor-to-ceiling glass walls to the ballrooms and boardrooms, passengers are experiencing Denver like never before via this new front door to the city.”

The hotel, which is expected to generate $42.4 million in revenue in 2016, welcomed a total of 131,049 guests in its first year – the equivalent to filling more about 574 B757 aircraft.
In November the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, confirmed plans to build a new 440-room, four-star InterContinental hotel “within steps” of the domestic terminal despite having more than 50 hotels located within a five-mile radius of the gateway.

The new addition will cost $250 million and be part of a development that includes an office complex and travel plaza – including a petrol station – developed on a 26.5-acre site next to the terminal by Majestic Carter Atlanta Mixed Use LLC.

The firm – a partnership between Majestic Realty Co, real estate firm Carter, and GPM Investments LLC – has signed a 50-year lease with the airport to develop and operate the hotel and other properties.

Construction of the 11-storey property, which has been designed by John Portman & Associates, is expected to start in 2018.

“Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest passenger airport, and one of the region’s most important economic generators,” says Atlanta Mayor, Kasim Reed.

“With this partnership, Hartsfield-Jackson will soon have a world-class hotel worthy of the world’s leading airport. We are making investments today to secure the future of the airport and create long-term economic and business growth.”

Visitors to the iconic new hotel will have access to 750 parking spaces, MARTA and direct access to the SkyTrain, which travels from ATL to the nearby Rental Car Center and Georgia International Convention Center. 

A restaurant is planned in the main lobby and a skybar that overlooks a runway will be constructed on the hotel’s tenth floor.

Two more hotels are planned in Phase II of the project, which ATL has conservatively admitted will cost in excess of $350 million.
Chicago OHare
Also in November the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a hotel operator to develop a new hotel adjacent to Terminal 5 and renovate an existing hotel at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

“Today’s passengers and business travellers need and expect modern facilities for lodging, events and office space critical to their unique needs, like direct access to and from the airport and ground transportation options,” says CDA commissioner, Ginger Evans. 

“We are building hotels at O’Hare to provide a significantly higher level of customer service and increased non-airline revenue. We are creating construction and service jobs for Chicago residents and enhancing O’Hare’s status as one of the world’s premier airports.”

The RFP calls for an operator to develop a new hotel adjacent to Terminal 5 at O’Hare that will provide direct access to airport travellers to the terminals via the free, 24-hour Airport Transit System (ATS). 

It is envisaged that the new, full-service hotel will have 300-400 rooms, 25,000-65,000-square-feet of conference space, banquet rooms, ballrooms, and other amenities.

The RFP also solicits hotel operators to renovate and modernise the existing O’Hare Hilton with a goal to accommodate large-scale trade shows and events, as well as adding amenities such as spas, extended room service, concierge services and quality restaurants and boutiques.

Each respondent to the RFP must submit a plan demonstrating a commitment to conduct at least four job fairs in designated socio-economically disadvantaged areas throughout the city to recruit employees for the new hotels and related facilities.

The Airport Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program participation goal of 15% for these airport projects represents one of the highest goals that have ever been solicited for an airport hotel project.

According to the CDA, the development of these hotels represent Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s long-term vision for strengthening O’Hare as not only the economic engine of the city, but for the entire country.
In Europe, Dublin Airport is another gateway proposing to build a new hotel, its plan being for a new 402 bedroom facility linked to Terminal 2, which is expected to create 400 new jobs and become Ireland’s fourth biggest hotel when it opens in 2019.

According to airport operator, daa, the new four-star hotel will provide employment for 250 people, while an additional 150 new jobs will be generated during the construction phase of the project. 

Planning permission for the 11-storey hotel has already been granted. Construction is expected to begin next October and the property will open in 2019.

The new hotel will have a total floor area of 22,840 square metres comprising 402 bedrooms, as well as extensive bar, restaurant, café and conference facilities and a fitness suite. 

Located just 95 metres from Terminal 2, it will occupy a prime 0.81 acre site between it and the T2 multi-storey car park.

Dublin Airport has appointed property consultants Savills Hotels & Leisure to seek expressions of interest for the development and operation of the new hotel, which will be developed under a Finance, Build Operate and Transfer (FBOT) model. 

The successful bidder will construct the hotel and operate it for a specified period of time, before transferring it back to daa at the end of the agreed term. 

“There is significant demand for a new terminal-linked hotel at Dublin Airport and this development will benefit not just the airport but the city and region as a whole as Dublin needs more hotel beds,” says Dublin Airport’s managing director, Vincent Harrison. 

“We’re constantly striving to improve the product that we provide to our customers and this new hotel will offer extra choice and convenience to passengers and to the many companies that are based on the Dublin Airport campus.”
Meanwhile in the UK, the Arora Group has broken ground on two new hotels it is building at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 – the 300-room Crowne Plaza and 450-room Holiday Inn Express, both of which are set to open in early 2018.

Arora, which lists Whitebridge Hospitality and the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) as its key partners on the £100 million project, currently operates the Renaissance, Sofitel and Holiday Inn hotels at Heathrow and also has outline planning permission to build a new 298-room hotel with direct access to Terminal 2 in the gateway’s Central Terminal Area.

Speaking at the October 26 groundbreaking ceremony for the new T4 hotels, Arora Group’s founder and chairman, Surinder Arora, said: “The construction of the hotels will expand the footprint of the Arora Group at London Heathrow Airport from 1,434 bedrooms to 2,184 across five hotels.

“This dual-brand development presents us with another exciting opportunity to work in partnership with IHG to bring not one, but two, new hotels to London, and working in collaboration with LJ Partnership and Heathrow Airport Limited we’re looking forward to developing these two best-in-class hotels for our business and leisure guests and creating up to 350 new jobs for the local community.”
Finally, Kansai International Airport (KIX) will become the latest Japanese gateway to boast ‘budget style’ accommodation when First Cabin opens a new “compact hotel” as the gateway in March 2017.

Located in KIX’s Aeroplaza, the new facility will be equipped with 153 cabins, lounge area and a large communal bath. Accommodation will include new ‘luxury’ 12sqm Premium Class cabins for families/couples, which are two-and-half times the size of its First and Business Class cabins. 

First Cabin also plans opening a facility at Tokyo Haneda’s Terminal 1 in 2017. Eight existing First Cabin hotels across Japan enjoy a 90% occupancy rate.

Statistics firm STR notes that global occupancy levels for airport hotels remained extremely high in the first 10 months of 2016, although at 73.5% it is fractionally down on the corresponding period
a year ago. 

Airport hotels in the US (75.4%) enjoyed the highest occupancy levels in the world during the 10-month period, and by region the Americas (74.6%) led the way followed by Europe (73.8%), Asia-Pacific (69.8%) and the Middle East/Africa (69.6%).

For the record, the world’s best airport hotels in 2016 according to the SKYTRAX Awards are:

  • The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport
  • Regal Airport Hong Kong
  • Pullman Guangzhou Airport
  • Hilton Munich Airport
  • Sofitel London Heathrow
  • Langham Palace Beijing
  • Hilton Frankfurt Airport
  • Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain
  • Fairmont Vancouver Airport
  • Grand Hyatt DFW

  • Airport hotels are nothing new, of course, and arguably date back to the 1928 opening of the Aerodrome Hotel at London’s Croydon Airport. The hotel, which welcomed former silent screen legend, Charlie Chaplin, as one of its first guests, still survives today as the Hallmark Hotel although the airport, sadly, is long gone.

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