Dream Hotel Group's Ashish Verma on high-end hospitality's comeback

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Long known for its high-end, high-energy hotels in markets like New York, Los Angeles and South Beach, Dream Hotel Group is gearing up for the post-pandemic recovery. The company recently reopened its Dream Nashville, Dream South Beach, Dream Hollywood in California and Dream Downtown in New York, among other properties, and is also preparing to grow its luxury Chatwal flag. Hotels editor Christina Jelski recently caught up with Ashish Verma, senior vice president of Dream Hotel Group's luxury division, to get an update on high-end hospitality's comeback and next year's opening of the Chatwal Lodge Catskills.

Q: High-end hotels, as well as properties in more urban markets, appear to have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis. Given Dream Hotel Group's exposure in these segments, what's your outlook on the coming rebound?

Ashish Verma
Ashish Verma

A: Relatively speaking, it's true that luxury has been impacted more than other segments, the main reason being that the typical luxury traveler travels predominantly for leisure, and leisure includes activities, which range from opera, ballet, theaters, shopping, dining, culture, art and museums. And those activities are all closed or limited right now. The luxury consumer also has choices in terms of their second homes and third homes. So they can hunker down and wait for things to get better before they return to travel.

Cities will also come back slower than the secondary and the tertiary markets because of their density and the number of cases that have been reported, but slower doesn't mean slowly. It just means slower in relative terms. The factor that remains in their favor is that they're major hubs of all the activities I mentioned earlier: culture, art, museums, opera, etc. And that will all bounce back, in time. Things are improving every day, and they'll continue to improve. However, in terms of dining and bars and nightlife, I do think cities will have to be more patient. People have gotten into the habit of cooking at home. It was once second nature, for instance, for New Yorkers to just pick up food or grab something nearby, but some New Yorkers are realizing it's not all that bad to just cook yourself a meal at home.

Q: Can you provide an update on the Chatwal Lodge Catskills?

A: We had planned for the Chatwal Lodge well before the pandemic, and the timing was such that we'd planned to open in April next year. Our construction team has been on the ground working through the summer, so the crisis hasn't really delayed things for us. We're still on track to open in the spring of next year. The property itself is 30 acres and sits on the Toronto Reservoir, which is a 1,000-acre lake. It'll have 10 suites, and we'll also have a treetop accommodation and glamp tent. And it's only two hours outside of New York City. I think a lot of New Yorkers are weary of the more crowded getaways in the summer, i.e., the Hamptons. We believe that upstate New York is a little bit more open and greener.

Q: You also previously announced plans to bring the Chatwal to Mexico. Are those projects still on track?

A: Yes, we have two planned. One is called the Chatwal Vines in San Miguel de Allende. That one has been under construction and is due to open toward the end of next year. That'll have 44 accommodations, and it's set in a vineyard. We'll have polo grounds and a fine dining, farm-to-table restaurant, and we'll produce our own wine there. We're also expecting it to be very popular for weddings, because San Miguel de Allende is huge for destination weddings.

The second project is the Chatwal Valle de Guadalupe, located in Northwest Mexico across the border from San Diego. That'll be 100 keys, with 60 suites and 40 rooms, and we expect it to open in the middle to latter part of 2022. We believe that the crowd there is going to be driving in a lot from the U.S., so it'll be a little bit more casual, but still with fine wines and good dining, wellness and a beautiful pool.

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