South Beach's Delano Hotel Courts the Chic and Affluent

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BY ERNEST BLUM

Reed Travel Features

MIAMI BEACH -- Hip travelers from around the world congregate in the alfresco eateries of South Beach, which are populated by models of both sexes and other glitterati.

After dining, many of them retire to an increasingly popular home away from home: Ian Schrager's 208-room, 16-story Delano Hotel on the northern edge of the Art Deco district.

Since Schrager rebuilt and reopened the classic 1947 beachfront property in July 1995, the Delano has become a magnet for many with ultra-sophisticated tastes and the income to afford them.

"The Delano attracts successful people in the fashion and entertainment industries on both coasts," Eric Jellson, the property's director of sales and marketing, said.

Many who fly in from Los Angeles and New York seem to bring their own aura of health and fitness.

Some guests, for example, make their appearance at the crowded pool area (where women may sunbathe topless) after working out in the gym operated by David Barton, a personal trainer with many celebrity clients.

Many of them also fre-

quent the property's gift shop for its varied selection of fruit juicers.

The pool, called the Water Salon, has a long shallow area and is intended as much for socializing as it is for swimming.

Recalling ancient Roman baths, according to a press release, the pool has "different areas for floating, meditating, sleeping -- even eating."

On the property's roof, with its panoramic view of Miami Beach, the Delano operates a women's bathhouse and solarium.

In addition to the worlds of fashion and entertainment, guests come from "the creative side of corporate America, philanthropic organizations and the arts," Jellson said.

"They understand the thought behind this property's design."

Schrager, head of the now six-property Ian Schrager Hotels Group, achieved fame in the 1970s as an entertainment impresario who launched the legendary disco, Studio 54, with his partner, the late Steve Rubell.

In the 1980s, both went into the hotel business with New York's Morgans and Royalton, two boutique hotels that catered to sophisticated travelers with cutting-edge tastes.

Schrager's hotels are not meant to reflect current styles, according to Jellson, but to anticipate them.

To implement his ideas, Jellson said, Schrager works with the avant-garde French architect Philippe Starck.

The Delano's lobby, a relatively narrow corridor with columns that extend from the entrance to the pool area, is conceived as both a theatrical and socializing space, Jellson said.

Guests proceed through eight areas, including a traditional lobby, a "kitchen" with a long marble table for informal dining, a bar, a game room and indoor and outdoor restaurants, the latter called the Terrace.

From the Terrace, an eclectic day-and-night dining venue, guests overlook a parklike area called the Orchard, featuring rows of stately palmettos and fruit trees.

Referring to the lobby and outdoor areas, Jellson said, "The decor is designed to allow guests to be on stage.

"They become actual players in the realm of what's taking place here."

Starck, who designed the Delano after he conceived Schrager's Royalton and Paramount hotels in Manhattan, recently completed Schrager's newest property, the Mondrian on Sunset Boulevard in West Los Angeles.

Starck also is expected to redesign San Francisco's Clift Hotel, whose management Schrager took over this January.

But not all guests at the Delano who can afford the $395 daily rate in high season for a standard oceanview room as well as the $18 valet parking tab will dote on Starck's design of the guest rooms.

Every room, including 30 suites and seven two-story poolside apartments, is done totally in white and off-white. That includes the sheer curtains, furnishings and upholstery.

"The guest rooms are some of the world's coolest," Jellson said.

He was not referring to the air conditioning but to the aesthetics.

Jellson, a former sales executive at Sheraton properties in Bal Harbour, Fla., and Long Beach, Calif., said the Delano quickly found its niche, achieving year-round occupancies in the low 80s.

Besides tapping a market of chic and affluent travelers, the executive attributed the property's success to providing high levels of service.

"The guest who's going to stay at an Ian Schrager hotel is going to be very well traveled and have high expectations for service," he said.

"That guest will be looking for something that's very personalized."

Jellson noted that the property has a staff of almost 200 for its 208 guest rooms.

About 60% of the guests are here on leisure travel, 20% on business and 20% with a group, he said.

During the winter, many of the guests are from the Northeast.

In the summer, the market becomes 60% to 70% international, split between Europe and Latin America.

Guest rooms start at $295 for a cityview room in high season, Oct. 1 through Memorial Day.

The high-season rate for a room with a partial view of the ocean is $345, followed by the direct oceanview room for $395.

In the off-season, the weekday rack rates for the three categories of rooms are $170, $210 and $250, respectively.

However, the rooms revert to high-season rates on Friday and Saturday nights, he said.

The property's suites, ranging from $450 to the $2,000 penthouse, are priced the same year-round.

Jellson said that the Delano does not offer any in-house packages.

However, the property extends bulk rates to operators in the U.S. and overseas, who then package it.

In addition, the hotel offers corporate rates to agencies specializing in the corporate and incentive markets.

A small ballroom can handle meetings and banquets for up to 50 guests, he said.

Travel agents, who receive a 10% commission, can stay at the Delano in the summer at an agent rate of $125 for weeknights only, Jellson said.

Agents can make reservations at the Delano or any other Ian Schrager property through Utell International at (800) 448-8355.

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