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Relais & Chateaux hopes New York boutique attracts new and existing guests

Relais & Chateaux hopes New York boutique attracts new and existing guests

The hotel association Relais & Chateaux may not be a familiar name to the average American, but the organization is hoping to change that with the opening of Maison des Relais & Chateaux.
The Maison is a warm and inviting place, part home, part hotel lobby, a boutique in the heart of Manhattan with a small sitting area, Rolls Royce kitchen, and reservation agents for booking Relais & Chateaux hotels and restaurants around the world.
The New York Maison opened on Feb. 13; other Maisons are in London and Paris. Three sales offices are set to open this year in Singapore, Switzerland and the Benelux countries.
Relais & Chateaux (relais means lodge or resting place; chateaux means castle) was created in 1954 when eight hoteliers decided to form the association to attract attention to their properties located between Paris and Nice. The exclusive collection has since grown to include 478 hotels and gourmet restaurants in 55 countries. There are 45 U.S. properties.
Europe has a long tradition of small country inn hotels, says Jaume Tapies, international president of the association, adding that the average property is 23 rooms. When the organization started, North America was known for mega hotels. But he says the number of "small luxury inns" in the region and the numbers of North Americans going overseas for vacations who are seeking "unique experiences" warrants a New York boutique.
"Our brand has to be shown in places where our clients are," says Tapies. With the Maisons, "everyone can see where we are and very easily come get information."
Tapies says he wanted the Maisons to be more than reservation offices, which explains the mini-theater, where people can watch a DVD of the history of the association, and in the future, take a video tour of one of the properties. A Library of the Five Senses includes tall shelves lined with guides to the properties and chefs' cookbooks. The kitchen features an $80,000 (euro54,000) Electrolux island consisting of a stainless steel grill, champagne sink, induction wok and induction cooktop where food is prepared for tastings and other events.
The timing might seem wrong for such a venture, considering the U.S. economic downturn and the weak dollar. But Tapies says the association has experienced a 30 percent growth in reservations over this time last year, though he says the U.S. economy is something he is concerned about.
However, North American properties may get a boost from international travelers because the weak dollar makes it cheaper for foreigners to come here. The association is also targeting a more affluent clientele, says Greg DeShields, Director of Industry Relations for Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, people who may not be overly concerned about a possible recession.
The main obstacle is that the coziness seen through the windows and the Relais & Chateaux sign may not be enough to pique potential guests' interest, says David Arnold, senior vice president and group publisher of the Robb Report. He says the organization needs to do "significant outreach to the public."
"Their biggest challenge is going to be conveying to Americans that have the means, taste level and experience to understand what the organization stands for and why they should make reservations with a Relais & Chateaux property," says Arnold. "If you know Relais & Chateaux, you know it. If you don't know it, it's kind of an alienated concept."
The Manhattan location also comes with its own set of challenges, says DeShields, because there is a "concentration of hotel inventory of different brands," such as Marriott, Peninsula and Kimpton. Relais & Chateaux properties are individually owned. He suggests that the association use celebrities to create some buzz.
While there is no celeb endorsement (according to a spokeswoman), the boutique does plan to host invitation-only events at the Maison, such as wine tastings and cooking classes from Relais & Chateaux properties, including Patrick O'Connell from The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten from The Mercer Kitchen at the Mercer Hotel in New York.
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If You Go...
http://www.relaischateaux.com


Updated : 2021-05-11 16:05 GMT+08:00