Thursday, September 7, 2017

[UPDATE] The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead to be Reflagged as "The Whitley"

ToNeTo Atlanta has been your only source for news concerning the rebranding of The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead since May, and as of today, we can confirm that the hotel will officially end its 30+ year run as the oldest continuous Ritz property in the world on November 14.  On November 15, The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead will be rebranded as "The Whitley" and as ToNeTo Atlanta reported in July, the new hotel will be under Marriott's "The Luxury Collection" umbrella. 
Host Hotels & Resorts, the Bethesda, Maryland-based REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) that currently owns The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, has designated Norwalk, Connecticut based HEI Hotels & Resorts to manage The Whitley.  According to Host's 2016 10K filing, as of February 20, 2017, HEI already manages three properties for Host including The Westin Atlanta Buckhead.   

ToNeTo Atlanta made multiple unsuccessful attempts to reach Host and HEI for comment on the reason for naming he hotel "The Whitley."  Despite not being explained in the press release, I suspect that the likely figure behind the hotel's name is John Whitley, a North Carolina transplant who, according to the Atlanta History Center, along with Henry Irby, was a central figure in what we know today as Buckhead.  

"...One fateful day, Whitley ventured down Pace’s Ferry Road to Irby’s store for provisions and a little socializing.  As always, Whitley carried his favorite rifle with him.  As Whitley neared the store, he stopped at a bold spring just to the south of Pace’s Ferry and a few hundred feet west of Peachtree Road in the vicinity of where the Atlanta History Center now stands.  As Whitley scanned the dense forest, he noticed movement in the brush.  Out walked a large buck and Whitley raised his rifle to his shoulder, looked down the sight, pulled the trigger and gave birth to a legend.  Whitley dressed the deer and planted the large head on a post by the stream.  So large was the head, that people began to tell their friends that they would see them at the buck’s head and the area became colloquially known as Buckhead."

Marriott International and Host Hotels & Resorts released the following joint statement regarding the transition. 

Marriott International and Host Hotels & Resorts have reached an agreement for The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead to become rebranded under independent operation as part of The Luxury Collection effective November 15, 2017. Host Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International are delighted that the hotel will remain in the Marriott International portfolio as part of The Luxury Collection.   

Upon transition, anticipated to occur on November 15, 2017, the hotel will be re-launched as The Whitley, a Luxury Collection Hotel. The Luxury Collection brand is an ensemble of more than 100 extraordinary hotels that define destinations in the U.S., Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The Whitley, a Luxury Collection Hotel, will be managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts.   

The team at the hotel is fully committed to a smooth transition over the next several months as the property continues to be managed under The Ritz-Carlton brand. Guests can rest assured that the hotel’s Ladies and Gentlemen will continue to provide the very best in guest and customer service. Previously contracted group and catering business, leisure transient business, corporate transient business and all other existing reservations, including Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Marriott Rewards redemption nights, will be honored by The Whitley, a Luxury Collection Hotel.   

The Ritz-Carlton remains dedicated to the vibrant Atlanta area and will continue to serve the local community and travelers alike with The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta and The Ritz- Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee.

It's interesting that the statement says that "the hotel’s Ladies and Gentlemen (employees) will continue to provide the very best in guest and customer service," considering the number of "Ladies & Gentlemen" who have left the hotel in recent months in anticipation of the change.  

In addition to Jenny Piccione, Director of Human Resources and Adil Drief, Front Office Manager, who left the property last year, Julie Rollend Shamrock, Area Communications Manager left, as did Franck Steigerwald, Executive Chef, Sheila Buciuman, Executive Assistant Manager, Rooms Division and Jace Lange, Assistant Front Office Manager.   Later, Casey Duggan, Les Clefs d'Or Concierge, departed the hotel after just seven months.  

As ToNeTo Atlanta reported in July Erwin Schinnerl, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead since 2011, departed the Buckhead hotel for the company's downtown Atlanta property effective July 21.  

More recently, Alberto Fedeli, Director of Restaurants at the hotel, left to become Senior Food and Beverage Manager at InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta.  Jessica Gorman, "lead" concierge at the hotel, is expected to depart The Ritz soon to join the concierge team at the St. Regis Bal Harbour in Miami.   

The hotel's new restaurant, Trade Root, is still expected to open later this fall.

There is no question that The Whitley inherits one of the best hotel locations in all of Atlanta, but its ability to collect premium rates will surely be tested.  Missing from the re-flagging announcement was any mention of a rooms renovation, something the hotel is in dire need of. 

Are you surprised that The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead is being re-flagged?  What do you make of the name "The Whitley" as the hotel's new name?  Will you continue to patronize the hotel under its new persona?

Please share your thoughts below.  


Anonymous said...

Hotel Whitey? I know we are in the Trump era but this? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I hope they keep the display of neuschwanstein castle during the holidays!


big big mistep

Anonymous said...

Granted, I don't know how many international visitors the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead hosted in the past, but it seems with the rebranding/name change the more affluent will migrate to the St. Regis or even the Intercontinental for their stays.

Atlurbanist said...

Funny that the name Whitley is already being used by a new apartment immediately behind the Ritz!

Atlurbanist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Starwood/Marriott's The Luxury Collection is an international brand. They seem to try to make every hotel unique to the city it is in thus the different names for each property. It will have no problem attracting high end clientele.

Anonymous said...

The Marriott is really messing up a great location--I will stay this weekend there--that will be my last--will move to another hotel in Buckhead--they are losing a good customer. I spoke with a lot of the staff that has been there forever--They are either leaving or looking for somewhere- They are heartbroken

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