Christina Jelski
Christina Jelski

It's tough to think of any footwear less quintessentially New York than the flip-flop, but Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts is hoping to challenge that assumption when it opens its Times Square property this month.

Known for greeting guests with a towering flip-flop installation in every lobby, the lifestyle brand is betting big on a hybrid play in the Big Apple, hoping to blend a big-city, high-rise hotel experience with signature island-inspired elements typically more suited to a resort destination.

It's worth noting that Margaritaville, which also has an urban hotel in Nashville under its belt, is far from the only resort-centric hospitality concept planting flags in city settings. 

Luxury brand Aman plans to build off the success of its urban resort in Tokyo with a highly anticipated opening in midtown Manhattan later this year. And Melia Hotels International, a group best known for beachside all-inclusives, has long targeted city expansion with its Innside by Melia offshoot, which since its launch in 2007 has popped up in markets like Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam and, yes, even New York.

Among these brands, however, Margaritaville is the one perhaps the most overt in its homage to the prototypical tropical getaway. Despite its urban surroundings, the Margaritaville Resort Times Square will feature tiki hut and palm tree decor at its sprawling, two-story Margaritaville Restaurant, and hallways and guestrooms will be outfitted in light and bright beachy hues. Above each bed, a ceiling fan -- an amenity rarely seen in New York -- will simulate ocean breezes.

Keeping in line with the resort theme, sightseeing activities, whether to the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building, will be referred to by staff as "excursions." And the property's outdoor, heated pool promises to stay open virtually year-round, or at least as long as temps stay above around 36 degrees.

And yet, during a late April hard-hat tour of the resort, general manager Kori Yoran told me that the property will largely be connected to the existing Margaritaville franchise in name only, claiming the brand's New York outpost will be unlike any other in the brand's hospitality portfolio.

He pointed to the resort's 5 o'Clock Somewhere indoor-outdoor rooftop bar as proof. The sleek space will offer sweeping views of Manhattan as well as unobscured sightlines of the Times Square Ball Drop and a specially curated menu of upscale food and beverage options. According to Yoran, the bar will be able to hold its own against any other high-end rooftop bar in New York.

It certainly seems a bold claim. Yoran, however, is no stranger to New York's rooftop scene, having most recently worked as the GM of Dream Hotel Group's Dream Midtown, a New York property known for its nightlife-focused PHD Terrace rooftop.

Whether the Margaritaville Resort Times Square can make its laid-back resort vibe successfully translate in a city as frenetic as New York remains to be seen, but in a competitive landscape awash with sleek and sometimes downright serious hospitality concepts, it's clear that the more family fun-oriented Margaritaville is likely to enjoy a high level of differentiation.

And the move also makes sense from a business perspective. For most brands, it's logical to expand to where your guests already go.

After all, today's travelers are far from static. The Aman loyalist likely feels just as at home in the secluded Bali countryside as in an urban jungle, and a repeat Paradisus by Melia guest may book just as many all-inclusive stays as they do city getaways. 

And for the Margaritaville fan fresh off a family vacation at the brand's new Bahamas outpost, why not offer them an option for their annual pilgrimage to Broadway, as well? 

New York may not have much in common with Nassau, but Yoran was quick to point out one big similarity.

"It's easy to forget, but we are still, in fact, on an island," he said. "The island of Manhattan." 

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