As more and more hotel brands strive to please the seasoned business traveler with fluffy pillows, designer sheets and a range of high-tech goodies, a new entity is attempting to do more than just “suite” talk.
Called eSuites Hotels, the upscale boutique concept was created by industry outsider Jerry Ellenburg, a developer of manufactured home communities who began working on the eSuites concept in the latter part of 1999.
Ellenburg conceived of the brand when he couldn't find a hotel that met his needs. “There was no tech suite with the ability to work effectively and host guests,” he recalls. “I looked at virtually every concept, including the most recently introduced brands, and couldn't find a concept that encompassed all the elements that today's hotel guest wanted.”
Ground will be broken on the first eSuites late this year in four markets: Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Phoenix. Each of these pilot projects, with the exception of the eSuites Hotel in Raleigh, is set to open in the fall of 2008. The company is negotiating for additional sites for a second development wave with a long-range goal of building up to 300 hotels. Northstar Finance provided $100 million in the first round of financing; PEM Group provided $27 million in mezzanine financing.
“We are looking at the ring suburbs,” says Sam Winterbottom, president and CEO of eSuites Hotels, formerly a senior executive with Starwood and Carlson Hotels. “We plan to compete for the business person who is not satisfied with the traditional hotel offerings.”
The prototype calls for a 224-suite configuration eight stories high. The company will target markets that have no fewer than 5,000 rooms within a 100-mile radius.
Each eSuites Hotel will contain 11 high-tech conference rooms and a state-of-the-art business center featuring both personal computers and Apple Macintosh systems, along with scanner-copiers, printers and faxes. The average daily room rate will range between $140 and $160.
The first of three types of suites will include a 468 sq. ft. space that features two rooms and a second bed in the living room/office area for multiple occupancy. A custom-built workstation with built-in network ports, analog modem jacks and multiple power outlets will accommodate computers. Additionally, the workstation will include a desktop computer that will enable users to employ Blackberries, iPods and other portable equipment.
The sportSuite will offer a professional quality exercise cycle or elliptical trainer, while the spaSuite features a whirlpool-style tub/spa. All rooms will include an in-room theater with two high-definition televisions and a surround-sound system with full iPod integration.
Construction costs will be approximately 15% to 20% less than a typical hotel chain because eSuites plans to use less sheet rock and more exposed concrete. Also, eSuites will conduct all the development and management in-house.
Morris Lasky, president and CEO of Lodging Unlimited, a management consulting firm for the hospitality industry, says business travelers increasingly demand the same technology on the road as they can find at home or at work. “If they can deliver on this concept, they have a good niche. I believe a business person would be willing to sacrifice location for these services.”