Brooklyn, Queens grab healthy piece of NYC hotel growth

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New York’s outer boroughs are accounting for a growing proportion of newer hotels within the metropolitan area, reflecting a jump in demand for rooms in Brooklyn and Queens on the part of tourists who are moving from “cheap” to “chic.”

Chain operators such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International are joining independent operators in increasing room supply across the East River from Manhattan, where the highest room rates in the country have priced out many travelers.

While Brooklyn and Queens account for just a quarter of the city’s hotel inventory and about 13% of its 87,000 rooms (hotels, on average, are far larger in Manhattan), almost half the hotels in the city’s development pipeline are in the two outer boroughs, according to New York’s tourism board, NYC & Company.

BrooklynAloftAnd while the boroughs’ occupancy rates don’t match Manhattan’s 84%, Brooklyn’s is almost 80%, while Queens’ is about 72%, NYC & Company said.

With Manhattan room rates topping $250 a night, much of the demand continues to stem from leisure travelers looking for lodging within a subway stop or two from Manhattan at about half the price.

“It’s a mini-perfect storm,” said John Fox, senior vice president at PKF Consulting. “Just to be able to get a room, people need to go outside of Manhattan.”

Still, Brooklyn and Queens are evolving into leisure and business destinations in their own right. Brooklyn, perhaps best known for its music scene, is home to a batch of restaurants that many say match up in quality with those in Manhattan.

Additionally, the borough will draw even more visitors once the 18,000-seat Barclays Center opens this fall. That arena will be home court to the NBA’s Nets, who are moving to New York from New Jersey.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, JetBlue opened its headquarters in the Long Island City section of Queens, while financial services firms like Citigroup and MetLife conduct much of their operations in the borough.

Given such draws, developers are responding in kind. Independent hoteliers are opening luxury and boutique properties in Brooklyn’s popular Williamsburg district that are catering to a guest who might have targeted Manhattan a few years ago.

The 64-room King & Grove Williamsburg, which opened late last year, and the 72-room Wythe Hotel are quoting rates of about $250 a night for queen rooms for mid-July weekend stays.

As for the chains, Starwood appears to best reflect how the large hotel companies are approaching the outer boroughs. Prior to last year, Starwood had just three of its 19 New York hotels in Brooklyn or Queens, two of which were Sheratons that served Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

Last year, though, Starwood added the 91-room Four Points by Sheraton Long Island City in Queens and the 176-room Aloft New York Brooklyn. Both hotels have performed better than expected, said Paige Francis, vice president of global brand management for Starwood’s Aloft, Element and Four Points badges.

As for Marriott’s brands, a 135-room Fairfield Inn & Suites opened in Brooklyn last year, while a SpringHill Suites is set to open in Queens in August.

Francis said international travelers have been especially receptive to the specific character of neighborhoods outside of Manhattan.

“They’ve really become destinations unto themselves,” she said.

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.

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