Ritz-Carlton opens 298-room hotel in New York near Ground Zero

ALTHOUGH ITS OPENING WAS DELAYED BY THE Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park is now doing brisk business. The 298-room hotel, part of a 39-story mixed-use development, is about five blocks from Ground Zero.

“We've been busier than we originally forecasted,” says Jena Gardner, director of sales and marketing for the Battery Park Ritz-Carlton. “People really want to support the area downtown.”

The Ritz-Carlton was scheduled to open Oct. 9. However, the rescue and cleanup work at the nearby World Trade Center site blocked access to the hotel for more than a month. Repairs to ensure that phone and high-speed Internet lines were operational further delayed the opening. The hotel decided to make its official debut after the holidays, on Jan. 29.

“Lower Manhattan has always been a very important neighborhood for New York financially, and it will continue to be the financial capital of the world,” Gardner says.

This downtown waterfront hotel offers views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and New York Harbor. In addition to the hotel, the 39-story glass-and-brick tower includes 113 luxury residences, the Skyscraper Museum, a restaurant, and a bar and lounge. The hotel's decor is Art Deco-inspired, with an art collection featuring the works of more than 100 New York artists.

The hotel also features 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 4,500 sq. ft. ballroom, a 1,800 sq. ft. junior ballroom, two multi-purpose function rooms and a boardroom.

Investors expect short-term troubles and a full recovery in two years

Hotel investors predict revenue and occupancy levels will rebound to pre-2001 levels within two years, with Europe and the United States leading the recovery, according to the Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels Hotel Investor Sentiment Survey of 1,800 of the industry's largest investors and owners.

But hotel investors are gloomy about the short-term outlook for hotel/resort properties. Investors are most pessimistic in their assessments of the leisure markets of Hawaii and Orlando, Fla., followed by San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago.

“Investors have clearly voiced their change in sentiment for the hotel sector across the Americas, as the impact of the recession and terrorist attacks is absorbed,” says Arthur Adler, managing director and CEO of the Americas at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in New York.

The Sept. 11 attacks accelerated the movement toward the trough of the market cycle. The report also notes that many investors are reluctant to sell in this down market. On average, only 5.9% of investors indicated an intention to sell. In the five key 24-hour U.S. markets (New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco), the sell intent ranged from 0% to 3%, a big drop from the range of 4% to 13% only two months ago, the report notes.

Gigantic land tortoises meet upscale tourists in the tropics

The gigantic land tortoises, land and sea iguanas and the flightless cormorant of the Galapagos Islands have a new neighbor — a 17-suite luxury resort. New York-based Millennium Hotels and Resorts has opened Royal Palm Resort, a luxury property that occupies 400 acres of the Santa Cruz Island, right in the midst of lush tropical forests.

The Galapagos resort, located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles from Ecuador, became fully operational in February. It includes two restaurants, 24-hour room service, a swimming pool, two tennis courts, a spa, business center and an astronomical observatory.

Environmentalists have tried to protect the isolated Galapagos Islands and their fragile ecosystem. Although the resort will bring more tourists to the island, the hotel also is targeting scientists who come to the islands to study the plants and wildlife.