Wednesday, November 7, 2018

[UPDATE] Mandarin Oriental No Longer A "Fan" of Buckhead, Waldorf Astoria Taking Over

The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta will be re-flagged as a Waldorf Astoria hotel in December.  The hotel, which opened in 2008 as The Mansion on Peachtree, A Rosewood Hotel, became the Mandarin Oriental in 2012.  The 42 story property designed by American architect Robert A. M. Stern is home to 127 hotel rooms as well as 45 private condo units and three private villas.  The change is scheduled to take place December 8.
The historic Waldorf Astoria in New York 

Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental is a well known hotel brand in Asia, where it operates 13 of its 31 hotels, but its name means less to some American travelers less familiar with the brand.  Additionally, many frequent travelers have existing relationships with larger hotel chains and their respective rewards programs, and while Mandarin did launch a program earlier this year - Fans of M.O. -  it pales in comparison to other hotel programs in terms of both its scale and lucrative rewards.

Waldorf Astoria, the most high-end of parent organization Hilton's fourteen hotel brands, has 35 hotels worldwide including two in south Florida: Boca Raton Resort and Club and Boca Beach Club.  The hotel will also be part of Hilton Honors, the company's rewards program that spans over 540 properties worldwide.

The Atlanta hotel is the second Mandarin Oriental property to be reflagged as the luxury Hilton brand following the conversion this past August of the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas to a Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas.  

Sources indicate that there is no renovation scheduled for the Buckhead hotel, but that a renovation is being considered for late 2020.  In 2017, the hotel completed a multi-million dollar spa renovation and the hotel received a rooms renovation shortly after the Mandarin took over in 2012.

The hotel's onsite restaurant, The CafĂ© & Bar, is reportedly not slated for any extensive renovation, but certainly some personnel/menu tweaks are likely.  The two level Del Frisco's Grille, located in front of the hotel along Peachtree Road, will likely not be affected as it's not part of the hotel itself.  

The re-flagging of the luxe hotel follows the conversion last fall of the longtime The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead to The Whitley, A Luxury Collection Hotel, under the Starwood/Marriott portfolio.

The Whitley has not been nearly as well received as its predecessor, making it far less of a competitor.  The Waldorf will most closely compete with the St. Regis on West Paces Ferry Road and to a lesser degree, the InterContinental on Peachtree Road.  When it opens in 2020/21, the Nobu hotel and restaurant at Phipps Plaza, and its planned 150 rooms will provide formidable competition for luxury hotel chains like St. Regis and Waldorf for high paying guests looking to stay in Buckhead.  

The new Waldorf Astoria will allow Hilton to penetrate the Buckhead market in a way it has not been able to do previously.

The Buckhead area is already home to numerous Hilton hotels - Hampton Inn Atlanta Buckhead, Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Buckhead Place, Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Buckhead, and the Embassy Suites by Hilton Atlanta Buckhead - but the area has been without an upscale offering from the company.

Plans were filed in August to transform the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at Tower Place into a Hilton Garden Inn. The project, which will change the look of the interior and the exterior of the 230 room hotel, is more or less a neutral move for Hilton, as they aren't gaining a "new" property in the transition. 

Hilton also has a number of ground-up hotels in the works around metro Atlanta including the area's first Canopy Hotel, now accepting reservations for December 11 January 6 and beyond.  The 176 room hotel is located at 1414 West Peachtree Street in Midtown and is only the fifth domestic hotel for the young brand.  The first Canopy opened in Iceland in 2016 with Hilton positioning the brand as its third tier of upscale offerings, between Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Hilton's namesake Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Hilton has has three new Embassy Suites hotels planned for metro Atlanta including locations at Atlantic Station, Halycon in Alpharetta and another near the Delta Air Lines headquarters in Hapeville on which ToNeTo Atlanta exclusively reported in October.

Hilton is also looking to bring its Curio hotel brand to metro Atlanta with a planned hotel in an historic downtown building.  The project, Candler Hotel Atlanta, was first announced in 2016 but has been stalled by financing issues.  As planned, the 265 room hotel would open in the Candler Building at 127 Peachtree Street sometime in 2019.  The structure, originally built in 1906, would be converted from offices to hotel for the project.  Curio, like Marriott's Autograph Collection, is considered a "soft brand," meaning its hotels are supported by Hilton, but retain their own individual branding.  A particularly notable hotel in the Curio portfolio is the historic Hotel del Coronado, which opened outside San Diego in 1888. 

China's Anbang Insurance Group purchased the Waldorf Astoria in New York for $1.95 billion in 2014, making it the most expensive single hotel ever sold.  In 2016, the company made a failed attempt to purchase Starwood Hotels for $14 billion.  Marriott eventually purchased Starwood for $13 billion.  The New York property is undergoing an extensive and expensive renovation, now expected to be completed in 2021.

Do you think a Waldorf Astoria will perform better in Atlanta than the Mandarin Oriental has?  Have you ever stayed at a Waldorf Astoria?  What is your favorite luxury hotel brand?

Please share your thoughts below  

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