Briefs: Fortress invests in Prem Group; Fauchon to giga project

Fortress invests in Prem Group: Prem Group, the Dublin-based hospitality operator, has secured significant investment from funds managed by units of Fortress Investment Group, New York, as the Irish company prepares to expand across Ireland, continental Europe and Britain. While Fortress’ investment value was not disclosed, the company has reportedly acquired a majority stake in Prem Group and purchased interests previously held by non-executive shareholders. Prem Group is looking to acquire freehold hotel and serviced apartments and expand Premier Suites across Europe. The company owns and manages 38 hotels and serviced apartments in Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium, and has 15 serviced apartments under its Premier Suites brand.

Overview rendering of the Diriyah Development in Riyadh

Fauchon announces hotel in Riyadh: Fauchon Hospitality, Paris, announced the signing of a 80-key hotel at the Diriyah Development in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Fauchon L’Hôtel Riyadh is planned in partnership with the owner of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and Yakoon Hospitality International. The hotel will feature a café, spa, rooftop outdoor pool and bar and a boutique. This is Fauchon’s first property in the Middle East and third hotel worldwide, after its debut in Paris in 2018 followed by one in Kyoto in March this year. More Fauchon Hotels will be announced in the U.S., Japan and China in 2022.

IHG launches Even in Montana: IHG Hotels & Resorts has signed a 120-room Even Hotel Bozeman in Belgrade, Montana. The hotel — the first Even property in Montana — will be an anchor tenant of a new mixed-use development adjacent to the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Slated to be completed by late 2022, the hotel will feature a bar, lounge areas, market, meeting rooms and an outdoor courtyard with fire pits. The property will be managed by Eres Hospitality and will be their first Even Hotel. IHG’s Even brand currently has 21 open hotels and 30 in the global development pipeline.

J.K. Place debut in Milan: Blue Noble, London, together with Hines, Houston, Texas, have finalized a lease agreement with J.K. Place for an asset in Milan, Italy’s fashion district. Blue Noble and Hines have invested in a joint venture in Smart Stay, the fund managed by Antirion SGR. The property in Milan will consist of 38 rooms and cover an area of 5,000 square meters. It will undergo renovation and is scheduled to open in the first half of 2023. This will be the first J.K. Place in Milan.

Hilton grows in Austria: The 159-key former Hotel Ramada Innsbruck Tivoli is being refurbished and rebranded as a Hilton property. Frankfurt, Germany-headquartered Union Investment has signed a 30-year lease with HR Group, the Berlin-based hotel operating company, for the hotel which was lying vacant since July 31 after the former tenant’s lease expired. Hilton will enter into a franchise agreement with HR Group for the property, which is scheduled to open on December 15. The hotel will initially operate as an independent hotel during the transitional phase and then will be fully refurbished and rebranded under the Hilton Garden Inn Innsbruck brand. Union Investment and Hilton will jointly invest €4 million (US$4.52 million) to upgrade the hotel to upscale from midscale. The renovation will be completed over the next 12 to 24 months. The property marks HR Group’s entry into the Austrian market and their first Hilton branded hotel.

Amex GBT merges with SPAC for IPO: American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) will merge with an Apollo Global Management-backed blank-check firm and go public at a valuation of approximately US$5.3 billion. The merger with Apollo Strategic Growth Capital will deliver gross proceeds of up to US$1.2 billion, including a US$335 million private investment in public equity (PIPE). Investors in the PIPE included Ares Management Corp, travel tech company Sabre Corp. and Zoom Video Communications. The American Express payments processor subsidiary in 2014 sold half of its business to a consortium led by investment firm Certares LP. The combined company will be renamed Global Business Travel Group, but it will continue to do business as AmEx GBT.

USTA reacts to new travel norms: The U.S. Travel Association reacted to the Biden administration’s recent announcement of enforcing tighter pre-departure COVID testing norms for entry into the U.S. and said it hoped it was a “temporary measure” until more information about the omicron variant was available. “It has long been known that measures to combat the virus and its variants would evolve and require us to be nimble and adapt. It is critically important that we communicate these policy changes clearly to global travelers and continue to welcome all qualified visitors to the U.S. In the meantime, the travel industry urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible,” said USTA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes.

UN chief slams “travel apartheid”: Travel restrictions to check the spread of COVID that isolate a country or region is “not only deeply unfair and punitive – they are ineffective,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Wednesday. “We have the instruments to have safe travel. Let’s use those instruments to avoid this kind of, allow me to say, travel apartheid, which I think is unacceptable,” Guterres said. The only way to curb the spread of COVID while permitting travel and economic engagement was to continuously test travelers “together with other appropriate and truly effective measures,” he added. Following the identification of the omicron variant of COVID in southern Africa, countries like the U.S. and the U.K. announced revised travel restrictions on the region.

Richard Williams dies: Richard Williams, the prominent hotelier and the former general manager of the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados and former president of the Barbados Hotel Association (currently the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association) died on November 26 in Barbados. With focus on independent hotels across the Caribbean, Williams was the first Barbadian to receive the Caribbean Hotelier of the Year Award by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). He was also awarded with the Silver Crown of Merit by the Barbados government in 1992 for his contributions to the development of the Caribbean tourism industry. Williams, who the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association remembered as a “tourism practitioner extraordinaire,” had successfully led the tourism bid for Barbados to host the finals of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup. Nicola Madden-Grieg, CHTA president, lauded his volunteer service to the association, during which he contributed to the design of Caribbean Marketplace, the Caribbean Gold Book and the Caribbean Hotels Reservations Service.

Soneva launches wellness brand: Soneva, Bangkok, announced the launch of Soneva Soul, a new wellness brand that blends ancient healing with modern medicine and science. The brand will consist of resort spas, movement, sleep, yoga and meditation programs, lifestyle and wellness programs, global network of wellness specialists an regenerative medical services. The new three-level complex Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani, Maldives, will include open-air treatment rooms, consultation suites, gym, biomodulation rooms, yoga pavilion and a meditation platform.

Richard R. Kelley’s memoir: ‘Paddling the Outrigger: Inspiration and Insights from the Journey of a Lifetime,’ a memoir by Richard R. Kelley has been released and available through da Shop website. Through the book, Dr. Kelley, also known as ‘Doc’ in the Hawaiian Islands, shares personal anecdotes about his parents who came to Hawaii and built their first hotel and how he forayed into the hotel business. The book is written as a collection of ‘Saturday Briefings’ over decades, the weekly newsletter Dr. Kelley wrote for his staff members during his four-decade-long career in leading Outrigger Hotels and Resorts. The memoir traces the past of Waikiki, Hawaii of his childhood, the history of Outrigger Hotels and a first-hand account of the development of Hawaii as a global top-tier tourist destination.

Noble House launches bookable experiences: Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Seattle, Washington, has announced a partnership with tech company Way to launch a unique bookable experience menu, available directly on hotel websites, that will showcase local artisans, businesses and entrepreneurs to host curated regional experiences. The platform will support hotels and resorts to develop, manage and scale this experiential programming. Once these events go live, guests can book straight from the hotel website and select from categories like wellness, culinary, culture and live music. The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle will be the first hotel to launch the platform, followed by other Noble House properties.