Rihga Royal is tall haven for New York travelers

TW hotels editor Grant Flowers recently stayed at the Rihga Royal New York. Here is his report:

NEW YORK -- Among the familiar names of New York's midtown hotel market, the Rihga Royal New York stands out for being, well, tall.

The 54-story hotel, owned and managed by Rihga Royal, an Osaka, Japan-based company, is located on 54th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, close to everything guests would need without the hubbub associated with a Fifth Avenue or Times Square location.

As a result, the hotel is a popular haven for business travelers or those just looking to conduct business. Two of the principals in the America Online and Time Warner merger, in fact, hashed out some of the details in one of the hotel's suites.

The 54-story Rihga Royal New York.The property was built in 1990 and is therefore a relatively new arrival in the New York market.

All 500 rooms in the hotel are suites and are only differentiated by placement within the building and some services.

For example, the hotel's Pinnacle Suites, which go for $625 a night, include in the rate airport pickup, complimentary cell phone, a videophone and personalized business cards.

The Rihga focuses on the business traveler, but the hotel also derives some revenue from meetings.

The hotel has 11 meetings rooms on the mezzanine and top floors, with capacities that range from 10 to 600 people. Among the highlights are the Gershwin and Majestic penthouses, which are located on the 53rd and 54th floors. The rooms have wraparound views of Manhattan, Central Park and the Hudson.

Catering for the meetings spaces is provided by Halcyon, the hotel's in-house restaurant.

As every room is a suite, there's plenty of space, but the hotel uses the space efficiently.

Doors open into the subtly decorated sitting area, which is furnished with a marble desk, a cushy couch and two chairs. A television is situated above a mirrored bar (another is in the bedroom).

The bedroom is separated from the sitting room by a pair of doors. As one would expect from a hotel that charges $495 a night for the privilege of sleeping, beds are excellent.

About the only question mark in the decor is the creamy pink marble in the bathroom, which contributes to the room's darkness. However, guests will be too stunned by the contraption on the toilet to notice the marble. Said contraption can, once the array of buttons is deciphered, warm the toilet to the desired temperature or function as a bidet. It's fascinating.

While the Rihga's bread and butter is the business traveler, the hotel also specializes in the entertainment industry. In fact, during a stay, one of the contestants on the television show "Survivor" was seen hobnobbing in front of the hotel.

No matter the market, the Rihga Royal stays plenty busy, even during weekends, when much of the business crowd is replaced by families.

Frank Banks, general manager of the hotel, said the property has averaged 88% occupancies on Saturdays over the past two years.

Besides the Rihga Royal New York, the Rihga Royal Hotel group has 13 hotels in Japan, two in Malaysia and another in Australia.

However, Rihga's management contract at the New York hotel might not last long.

Rihga has had to sell some assets to counter the effects of economic problems at home in Asia. Consequently, Rihga is attempting to sell the Rihga Royal, and while no news has been announced as of mid-October, there are rumors that the hotel will be bought by a real estate firm that intends to award the management contract to Regent International.

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