Iron Horse Still Proving Boutique Works

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The 102-room Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee is two days from its third birthday, but the property and owner Tim Dixon got an early present last week: For the second straight year, the hotel was named the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association's hotel of the year, and Dixon was named the hotelier of the year for the first time.

Everything about the hotel is unique: Its customers are bikers and business travelers; its design is gritty, yet elegant; and its success, after opening in the midst of the industry's worst downturn, has been extraordinary.

Some year-to-date performance highlights: The Iron Horse's occupancy index is at 113.7 and the ADR index is at 123.3, which adds up to a 140.3 RevPAR index. The media (besides me), and customers alike, have raved about the property. It's one of the top-rated Milwaukee hotels on TripAdvisor, it was named to Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List and National Geographic Traveler's Stay List, to name just a few of its other honors.

The BLLA honored the hotel for its excellence in sustainability, f&b, customer service, sales and marketing and operational performance.

“This honor shows that exceptional, experiential and independent hotels can thrive in any market as long as there is a vision and commitment to customer service,” said Dixon.

The fact the hotel resides in Milwaukee is proof a boutique hotel can work—and well—somewhere other than New York, San Francisco or Miami. Dixon was able to build what appeared to many as an overpriced hotel because of his savvy use of New Market Tax Credits and federal, state and local historic tax credits and incentives.

That, and his current exploration of the EB-5 visa program for immigrant investors, will be a topic he's speaking on at the third annual Lifestyle/Boutique Hotel Development Conference in Miami on Oct. 19-21. The event is produced by Lodging Hospitality and focuses on the growing lifestyle and boutique segments of the industry.

Click here for more details on that panel, the event agenda or to register.

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