Major Makeover: The lobby at the Houston Marriott Westchase recently underwent a complete transformation as part of a $20 million renovation of the hotel.
Since 2014, Westchase District’s hotel market has grown by nine percent, adding 303 new rooms, mostly limited service/extended stay brands. That construction boom has slowed, but as the industry rides out a dip before the 2017 Super Bowl comes to town, managers at older properties are staying competitive by renovating their rooms and meeting spaces. The upgrades position Westchase District as an attractive place for travelers staying for business or pleasure.
Houston’s hotel market was down by about nine percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to industry tracker Source Strategies, Inc. In the hospitality world, the best time to renovate is when things are slow. “That way when the market bounces back, you’re on top with fresh-looking product,” said hotel development consultant David Parker. “The challenge is that profits are down, so hotels must have good cash management to time it just right.”
Harry Greenblatt, general manager of the Houston Marriott Westchase, agreed. The Marriott, built in 1980, is in the middle of a $20 million renovation, a project that began this April and will finish in October. “It’s been about 11 years since the hotel underwent a full-blown remodel of all guest rooms and public spaces,” he said. “Now is the perfect time for us to do this.”
Full Service Refurbishes
Greenblatt said the Marriott is gutting every one of its rooms down to studs and concrete and replacing everything with Marriott’s latest room package, featuring brand new furnishings, fixtures, beds and bathrooms. Sixty rooms will have walk-in showers. Each floor takes about four weeks to complete, with crews working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. All guest rooms will be remodeled completely by the end of September.
Conference rooms, hallways, elevator interiors, pool decking and even the buffet area will be redone, as well as the rebranding of the concierge lounge as the M Club. “It’s an exclusive space for gold and platinum elite Marriott rewards members with premiere services where guests can work, enjoy a bite, recharge and connect,” Greenblatt said. “The rooms provide a variety of seating options to relax or work and the club has a dedicated host, including a concierge.”
Parker, whose Westchase District-based DP Consulting focuses on hotel market studies and feasibility assessments, said full service hotels such as the Marriott Westchase and the Hilton Houston Westchase are too expensive for most hotel developers to build, so these brands are able to stay relevant as long as their rooms and meeting spaces are up-to-date. “In newer limited service and extended stay brands, guestrooms are squeezed smaller in favor of larger social-gathering-style lobbies,” he said. “Full service hotels still offer more spacious rooms and conference or convention areas.”
The Marriott is not the only Westchase District hotel with a fresh look. Since 2012 the Hilton Houston Westchase, 9999 Westheimer, has seen more incremental renovations, resulting in another total transformation. “Everything in the hotel has been touched, from finishes, furniture and flooring, even the hotel’s cooling towers,” said Judy Orlando, Hilton Houston Westchase’s general manager. “Our 13,000 square feet of meeting space has better and more efficient lighting as well as the latest conferencing technology. We understand that there are expectations from millennial-age travelers and we want to always be relevant in customers’ minds.”
On the limited service hotel side, the La Quinta Inn & Suites, located at 10850 Harwin Drive, recently completed extensive renovations and is looking pretty snazzy. “New décor throughout the hotel and our 83 rooms will completely enhance our guests’ experiences,” said Yolanda Brown, general manager. “We have a brighter and more polished contemporary look and feel, even faster high-speed internet and new flat-panel TVs with 30 channels of HD programming.”
Residence Inn by Marriott, an extended stay hotel located at 9965 Westheimer, has plans for major renovations in 2017, but got a head start on them when some rooms received flood damage from heavy rains in April.
Greenblatt said he’s confident the current market lag is only temporary. “This is my fourth downturn in 27 years in the hotel business,” he said. “Am I concerned? Yes. Am I worried? No. I’ve seen this before and I know that we’ll be coming back stronger than ever.”