MADRID -- AC Hotels created the most buzz at this year's recent
Fitur international travel trade show here, as suppliers and
wholesalers took note of the Madrid-based chain's rapid expansion
and cutting-edge approach to hospitality in a market known for its
reliance on tradition.
Most of AC's properties cater to business travelers, but AC --
founded three years ago by Antonio Catalan Diaz, the former head of
NH hotels -- is the first design chain in Spain.
AC owns and manages 15 hotels with 51 under construction,
according to Gonzalo Girladez Quiroga, AC's director of expansion.
In 2001, the firm is slated to open 13 properties in Spain.
Nigel Hack, director of Madridandbeyond.com, a hotel and tour service
based here, said "AC's innovations -- free minibar and four pillows
on the bed -- have been a big hit with our clients and set AC apart
from some of the long-established players."
Ironically, AC's most plush hotels forego the post-modern look,
opting instead for an Old World ambience that Americans are fond
The 37-room AC San Mauro, for instance, is arguably the most
impressive boutique hotel in Madrid.
The neoclassical villa has regal touches everywhere, from the
wrought-iron staircase to the French parlor rooms hung with vibrant
Especially appealing are the hotel's indoor swimming pool,
library and private dining room.
In a city known for larger properties such as the Ritz, Madrid's
San Mauro has attracted a rich clientele seeking a more intimate
setting, including former president George Bush, former Soviet
premier Mikhail Gorbachev and Sweden's King Gustav XVI. Rack rates
start at $273 per night, double.
Another notable property is the recently opened AC Toledo,
situated high above the hills providing stunning views of the
AC Toledo, with 49 rooms, is set in a collection of country
houses with a luxurious yet rustic atmosphere. Rooms are priced
from $103 per night, double.
An added plus for Americans: the San Mauro and Toledo hotels
offer nonsmoking rooms.
AC is bookable through the CRS. The firm's Web site is at www.ac-hoteles.com.