Lodging Unlimited sees potential beauty in 'ugly' properties

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Lodging Unlimited is looking for a few ugly hotels.

The hotel management firm has established a Web site, www.uglyhotels.com, as part of an effort to acquire hotels that might lack in looks but make up for it with "extraordinary potential." The site is geared toward hotel owners looking to sell.

"Like the swan in the children's tale 'The Ugly Duckling,' many hotels have another life in them, but that life needs to be uncovered," said Morris Lasky, president and CEO of Lodging Unlimited.

To that end, Lodging Unlimited has acquired the 245-room George Washington Hotel in Williamsburg, Va., its first property under this program. It plans to make over the hotel and convert it to an upscale brand.

"We seek the most challenged hotel in a given market because we are confident that, with the right capital and concept, many can be turned around," Lasky said. "Our only qualifier is that the hotel must have at least 150 rooms in a market that has some barriers to new competition."

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts broke ground on the first franchised Aloft, a limited-service spin-off of the company's W brand.

The 136-room hotel is slated to open during the first quarter of 2008 in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., a Southern California city located just north of Ontario Airport. The Aloft Rancho Cucamonga will be part of a $60 million mixed-use development called HavenPark.

The Aloft brand will feature a contemporary design and public spaces where guests can socialize, read or work on their laptops. Rooms, as the name suggests, will be loft-like with nine-foot ceilings and oversize windows.

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Omni Hotels has developed a program that permits meeting planners to customize the sights, sounds and even scents of meeting environments.

Through its Sensational Meetings program, Omni intends to provide "fresh, innovative environments specially designed to align with the primary objective of the meeting," said Stephen Rosenstock, senior vice president of brand standards and business development for Omni Hotels.

For what the chain calls an "energetic meeting" geared to brainstorming, planning and training, planners might lean toward vibrant, high-energy colors to help create stimulating environments.

For other types of meetings that would benefit from reduced stress and increased productivity, environments would be designed with such accents as lower lighting and "music that speaks to positive energy and reassurance."

For enhanced alertness, a meeting may be accompanied with "a peppermint or chocolate mint aroma," Omni said.

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Corinthia Hotels International, which operates five-star hotels in Europe and northern Africa, signed a deal to manage a new property being developed in Algiers by Lafider s.p.a, an Algerian hotel company.

Construction on the 274-room Corinthia Hotel-Algiers is slated to begin this year, with an opening projected for 2009.

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HEI Hospitality, a lodging investment firm, said it plans to develop and acquire as much as $1 billion in hotel real estate this year.

To achieve that goal, HEI has expanded its acquisition efforts "beyond select service to include full-service and mixed-use properties," said Steve Mendell, HEI's executive vice president of acquisitions and developments.

The firm also said it has changed its name to HEI Hotels & Resorts.

HEI owns hotels throughout the U.S. under several brands, including Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, W and Hilton. HEI, as part of a joint venture, is developing a mixed-use project in Hollywood, Calif., that will encompass a W hotel with residences.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based company said its acquisition targets will include hotels affiliated with Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, InterContinental and Hyatt.  

Michael Milligan is Travel Weekly's hotel editor. E-mail him at [email protected].

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