The News: One Company Forges Ahead

Though RevPAR continues to decline, some in the hotel sector are undaunted and making plans to grow. Hotel developer and operator LodgeWorks L.P. is launching AVIA, an upscale boutique hotel brand, planning to debut the first property in early 2009 in Savannah, Ga. Three more are slated for California’s Napa Valley and Long Beach and The Woodlands mixed-use development outside Houston, all scheduled to open in 2009. LodgeWorks, which also launched the Residence Inn and Summerfield Suites brands before selling them to Marriott and Hyatt, respectively, will own the assets along with its private equity partners.LodgeWorks has signed up some well-known designers, such as Colum McCartan, the designer of San Francisco’s Hotel Vitale and Hotel Adagio and New York City’s Le Parker Meridien. Each hotel will encompass 70 to 160 rooms. AVIA was born when LodgeWorks determined that several sites it controlled would be ideal locations for boutique hotels, noted president B. Anthony Isaac. The operator will rely on a panel of tastemakers to provide hotel staff with restaurant, shopping, and sightseeing recommendations. “We are not going to have a spa, but we’re going to be able to recommend the two best or three spas in a city,” he said. The hotels will also offer light meals and wine and refreshment bars. “We’re going to be the place to go before dinner, and the place to go after dinner,” Isaac said.Despite the lodging industry’s current travails, Isaac said his company is taking the long-term view in launching the boutique flag. All of the AVIAs received financing before the credit crunch. “We think travel, in the long term, is not going to diminish,” he said. “The world is getting smaller, and (retiring) Baby Boomers are going to have more leisure time. We are building long-term assets.”