Established in 2014, boutique hospitality group Salt Hotels is known for its design-led portfolio of independent properties, which include the Asbury and Asbury Ocean Club in Asbury Park, N.J., and the Salt House Inn and Eben House in Provincetown, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. This spring, the company plans to debut the Hutton Brickyards in Kingston, N.Y. Spanning 73 acres, the Hudson Valley property will feature 31 cabins and suites, expansive outdoor and indoor event space and access to a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, archery, kayaking and cross country skiing. Hotels editor Christina Jelski recently spoke with Salt Hotels co-founder and CEO David Bowd to get the latest update on the company's recovery and expansion efforts.
Q: Given its concentration in beach and resort markets, how did the Salt Hotels portfolio fare over the summer?
A: I think when we look at what we were expecting this year to be back in March, we've weathered things much better than we thought we would. As you say, our locations are a little bit more conducive to what travelers have been looking for this season. They're drive-to markets with lots of outdoor space, and you don't have to get on a plane. Most of our business has come from the major metropolitan cities of New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. So, we've been very fortunate in terms of how this summer has gone. We've also had some incredible weather [into early November this year], with temperatures in the mid-70s. All of our properties were full over [the Nov. 6 to 8] weekend. And in Provincetown, one of our hotels has multiple houses, and those are completely booked through off-season. That said, I do think we're heading into a tough few months while we get through the cold part of winter. I don't want to be all doom and gloom, but obviously Covid cases are spiking.
Q: Despite the pandemic, you've been busy with the Hutton Brickyards project. Can you talk about that concept?
A: We've been looking for an upstate New York property since we started the company, and we're really excited about the Hudson Valley. It is where our guests already go, and it's where we're constantly getting requests for, so it's a very natural place for us to have a hotel. When we toured the site for the first time back in May or June, it was almost like it was perfectly prepared for this Covid world we're in. It has individual cabins, so it's set up for social distancing. The restaurants are outdoors, and there's 73 acres, so you can take a 10-mile hike on the property. And it's right on the Hudson River, so it has this incredibly unique positioning. We're very, very aggressively working toward an April 27 opening.
Q: Prior to the pandemic, there was talk of Salt Hotels getting into more urban markets. Given everything that's played out since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, is this still a priority?
A: It's true that prepandemic, one of the things that we constantly talked about was diversifying and having a mix of both resort and less seasonal city properties. But of course, through the pandemic, we've been very grateful that we didn't have those city center hotels. Still, whilst a lot of hotel development has gone on hold and financing for hotels is very difficult, we've picked up the [Hutton Brickyards] deal and are also in final negotiations for another two deals, one of which is in a city. And we've actually got a couple of other city center hotels in the works. Those are a little bit longer term, but with all the positivity coming out of the election and talk of a vaccine, people are already getting much more geared-up toward life returning to normal, and financing is becoming available for those types of projects. Going forward, we will be working toward that mixture of city center and resort-style properties, which I think will allow us to be able to weather whatever storms are in front of us.