When Jimmy Buffett wrote the lyrics "strumming my six
string on my front porch swing, smell those shrimp they're beginning to boil,"
he certainly didn't have midtown Manhattan in mind.
Even so, the beachy resort chain named for and inspired by
his popular 1977 hit "Margaritaville" is betting its sun-splashed
vibe will gain favor in the ultimate U.S. urban destination. Late last month,
the chain announced it would open a 234-room hotel at the southern end of Times
Square by late 2020.
"Within New York City, Times Square was always the
destination that made the most sense," said Margaritaville Holdings CEO
John Cohlan. "But we're really about walking into an environment that
takes you away. If you walk into our Hollywood [Florida] lobby, it doesn't
scream 'beach' at all. It's about relaxation, fun, something that's social."
The Orlando-based resort operator isn't unique among resorts
specializing in natural settings looking to cities for expansion opportunities.
Last month, Kerzner International Holdings' One&Only Resorts brand
announced its Urban Resorts division with plans to open a hotel as part of
Dubai's One Za'abeel mixed-use project in 2020.
Meanwhile, last October, Aman, which has long specialized in
operating resorts in exotic locations across Europe, Asia and Africa, announced
plans to open its first New York property in 2020.
Granted, both Margaritaville and Aman had previously made
inroads to the urban market. Aman, which oversees 33 resorts worldwide, entered
the competition in late 2014, when it opened its Tokyo property.
A guestroom rendering for the Margaritaville resort in New York.
Margaritaville, which does not have a property north of Pigeon
Forge, Tenn., broke ground on a 217-room hotel in Nashville's SoBro (South
of Broadway) district, which it expects to open by late summer 2019.
New York's broad tourism appeal is reflected in the
divergent approaches taken by Margaritaville and Aman there. The new
Margaritaville, which will be on Seventh Avenue at the former site of a Parsons
School of Design building, will have a Margaritaville Restaurant, a 5 o'Clock
Somewhere Bar and a rooftop LandShark Bar & Grill.
The Aman New York will be redeveloped out of New York's
Crown Building near Central Park. The property, which will have 83 rooms and 20
luxury residences, will feature luxury amenities like a two-story "sky"
lobby and the Garden Terrace restaurant on the building's 10th floor. The hotel's
five-story penthouse will have indoor and outdoor pools, and a three-story spa
will include an 80-foot indoor swimming pool flanked by double daybeds and fire
Strategically, such hotels are an effective way to boost
international brand recognition within the New York tourism sector, which has a
high percentage of both inbound and outbound international travelers, said Mark
VanStekelenburg, New York-based managing director at CBRE Hotels.
"New York continues to be one of the biggest outbound
markets for luxury hotel usage," he said. "So if you can establish a
foothold in New York City, it expands your awareness to those users
Aman's New York resort is scheduled to open in 2020.
VanStekelenburg also said that the Margaritaville and Aman
properties will join a growing list of hotels whose developers are willing to
invest in larger indoor-outdoor spaces, especially in or near midtown, that
offer guests a more dynamic experience. For example, the Renaissance New York
Midtown Hotel opened in 2015 with an 8,000-square-foot rooftop deck with a
And last year, the Moxy Times Square opened with the city's
largest all-season rooftop bar featuring "adults only" miniature
All of which leaves Margaritaville Holdings' Cohlan
confident that there will be enough prospective guests with a previous
association with the brand through its resorts or restaurants to fill the
"There are Parrotheads everywhere," he said, using
the nickname for devout Jimmy Buffett fans. "Everyone talks about 'lifestyle
hotels,' but we really do mean it."