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Air Apparent

Nestled in a box canyon of towering vermilion cliffs, Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz., mesmerizes guests with its dramatic Southwest views. The resort completed a two-year, $25 million renovation in June that emphasized bringing the outdoors in and creating open-air spaces.

After doubling the size of the pool, and raising it 10 feet to give guests full views of Boynton Canyon, pool bar revenue has risen 180 percent so far, says Enchantment Group President Mark Grenoble. “The views there are so spectacular that people just hang out longer than they ever did before.”

Poolscapes, rooftop bars, restaurant patios, open-air lounges, and garden nooks allow hotels to showcase their personality to the public while opening the door to lucrative business opportunities.

Outdoor spaces can monetize an area of a property that may not generate much revenue, Grenoble says. “It’s a way to increase your cover counts without a lot of additional cost if you can get a terrace or patio,” he says. “A lot of times it’s just the furniture and umbrellas and somewhere to do it.”

In fact, as soon as Enchantment Group added white rocking chairs on a terrace at its Tides Inn resort and spa in Irvington, Va., guests immediately began flocking outside to relax with Lancaster lemonades in hand.

Jody Pennette, CEO of cb5 Restaurant Group in Greenwich, Conn., says outdoor food and beverage concepts can drive incremental revenue and become an apparent marketing tool. “Although restaurants and bars provide the obvious perk, I think the more the building itself becomes user friendly and accessible to guests, the more they can enjoy it,” Pennette says.

In some cases, it allows hotels to provide a more casual offshoot of their full-service experience indoors. “Hotels need to get their personality out on the sidewalk the best they can,” Pennette says. “Otherwise you have to go sleep in a room to know what to make of it.”

Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston engaged cb5 to refresh one of its restaurants as part of the hotel’s centennial restoration project. Pennette says his firm received approval for an outdoor café at the restaurant, OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, which debuted in July. “In that case the outdoor space, small and cumbersome as it may be, became a marketing tool and basically a telegraph that change is there and maybe it’s worth coming back and taking notice,” he says.

FROM THE ROOFTOPS
One of the most familiar ways hotels maximize their outdoor spaces, Pennette says, is through creating a rooftop bar. “What was once simply filled with ventilation ducts and pipes, people have found a way now to use the vista to create an experience that everyone seems to enjoy,” Pennette says.

The Ramada Plaza Resort & Suites Orlando, a new 131 all-suite tower that opened in July, features a rooftop swim-in-place current pool and bar area called The Oasis, as well as a terrace that overlooks Sandy Lake. Outdoor spaces were integral to the design strategy of the tower, which stands adjacent to the original 164-room Ramada hotel. Owner Swapnil Shah says the overall market in Orlando accounts for more than 100,000 rooms per night. “It was key to us that we needed to have some type of outdoor space to differentiate us to the market,” he says.

From the 12th floor rooftop, Shah says guests can see Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Access to the 5,000-square-foot Oasis rooftop—and unlimited, complimentary alcoholic beverages from noon to 8 p.m.—is included in the room rate for guests staying in the Club Level suites. Guests staying on floors 3 through 8 can pay a supplementary fee of $25 per day, per person, to receive this amenity.

“This is a value that we’re giving that 90 percent of the market, I would say, can’t compete with,” Shah says. “That helps us play in the top 10 percent of the market overall.”

WEATHER OR NOT
Hotels located in areas that don’t have warm-weather year round need creative solutions so their outdoor spaces aren’t vacant during the fall, winter and early spring seasons. The Dana Hotel & Spa in Chicago, where cb5 developed the Vertigo Sky Lounge, erected a temporary ice bar in winter.

Outdoor options shouldn’t be overlooked in desert climates like Las Vegas, Pennette says, because temperatures cool down in the evenings. “Depending on the season,” he says, “you can have great outdoor dining even in warm weather climates that are typically a little off limits during the day.”

Bongos Cuban Café at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., offers drinks for half price while it’s raining, and customers who paid a cover charge can take a rain check and return on another night. Gloria and Emilio Estefan partnered with cb5 to open the nightclub in 2010. It features two outside dining areas, one with an open air Cuban street festival setting and the other a portico with an indoor/outdoor bar and open grill. Glass elevators ascend to the rooftop bar, which features cabanas and open-air cocktail seating.

“You can’t afford to lose your night because of a passing sprinkle,” Pennette says. In order to sustain an open- air space, operators must recover from weather quickly. “Most importantly it’s creating enough pockets of shelter that hopefully everyone laughs and runs under a tarp or canvas and waits out the storm.”

At the J House Hotel, which opened in May in Greenwich, Conn., cb5 developed a restaurant that has open-air dining and bar areas with residential-style furniture. A retractable roof and heating units allow the outdoor spaces at eleven14 Kitchen to be used for most of the year. “You have to do it in a way that you can recover again from unforeseen weather implications,” he says.

A SENSE OF PLACE
Creating multiuse, outdoor spaces can help properties attract more meeting and special events business. For more than 20 years, landscape architecture firm Gates, Leighton & Associates (GLA) in East Providence, R.I., has helped transform the seaside landscape of Spruce Point Inn Resort & Spa in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, into a variety of outdoor “rooms.” This has included expansion of the wedding and conference venues, pool upgrades, the spa’s outdoor “quiet room,” design for new terraces and decks, and a trail system.

GLA President Donald Leighton says landscape design has evolved to accommodate more outdoor events while, at the same time, bringing a special sense of place to facilities. Hotel clients often want anchors in the landscape so tent structures can easily be erected for weddings and corporate retreats.

“When the tent comes down, the landscape is still doing what it’s supposed to be doing 24/7, and that’s adding the curb appeal to the facility,” Leighton says. “You want to feel comfortable even if it’s just one or two of you strolling through this garden, and the next day that garden may be transformed into a tent with 200 people in it.”

For hotels that host destination weddings, he stresses the importance of a picture-perfect landscape.

“Gazeboes, flowering trees, small water features, tiny bridges, those are all things that photographers look for…The landscaping is really put to work on those days when you have a destination wedding.”

BOOMING BUSINESS
The renovation at Enchantment Resort included the addition of 7,000 square feet of event space to the Meeting Village, bringing the total indoor space to more than 13,000 square feet and the outdoor banquet space to more than 20,000 square feet. “If you’re a group in Sedona, unless it’s raining, or unless it’s 100 degrees that day for lunch, every function is outside,” Grenoble says.

The re-imagined Clubhouse features a new signature restaurant, Che-Ah-Chi; a wine bar with a cellar of more than 2,000 bottles; View 180, a tapas style open-air lounge; and the remodeled casual dining spot Tii Gavo. Each establishment has floor-to-ceiling windows and nano walls or doors that open up to a patio or terrace. Tii Gavo now has nearly 100 inside seats, 80 outside seats, and a 15-seat fire pit. There are 32 terrace seats at View 180, and about 40 patio seats at Che-Ah-Chi. Grenoble says Enchantment Group spent $8.5 million on the restaurant space alone.

“We needed to make sure we had a restaurant and lounge experience that our guests expect at a luxury destination resort,” he says, “but on the other side, we are capturing a lot more revenue, and it’s going to be a very profitable endeavor for us.”

Group and leisure business have significantly improved, and the property has seen a dramatic uptick in sales. Cover counts have gone up nearly 20 percent at Tii Gavo, and beverage sales for View 180 and the wine bar are up about 28 percent, Grenoble says. “So far, we’re seeing a very positive uptick and we think that’s going to grow even more…we project almost a 50 percent increase in revenues, mainly in beverage.”

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