Rendering of the Riu Plaza New York Times Square.Riu Hotels & Resorts is investing big in its effort to establish its Riu Plaza urban brand in Miami Beach and New York, two of the most lucrative hotel markets in the U.S.

The Spanish company flies its Plaza flag in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Panama City and plans to open in Berlin next year.

"Our Plaza line was created to serve the business traveler as well as the city-break traveler," said Ricardo Luque Ferrandez, managing director of Riu Plaza Hotels. "We are looking for a central location in large cities, which are touristic destinations. The right location within the city is a key part to the success of this business.

"The location of the Riu Plaza Miami Beach and the future Riu Plaza New York Times Square best meets these requirements," he said.

The Hotel Riu Plaza Miami Beach will open on Nov. 1, following a $15 million conversion of the former Riu Florida Beach, which Riu has owned and operated since 1996. It is on a stretch of Collins Avenue where several hotel companies, including Hilton Worldwide and Commune Hotels & Resorts, are renovating and reflagging oceanfront properties.

Riu is redoing all 284 rooms with a steel and glass decor.

The hotel will offer a pool bar, a main restaurant with a terrace, the Capital Take Away deli in the lobby and complimentary WiFi throughout.

Guests can book a room with breakfast or half-board (two meals a day).

Rates will range from $199 to $259 per room, per night, double; high season rates will increase $100, according to Luque.

The $300 million, 654-room Riu Plaza New York Times Square, under construction in the theater district, represents the largest investment made by Riu to date, Luque said.

The hotel is slated to open at the end of November 2015 with rates from $200 to $350 per room, per night, double, increasing $100 per room in peak season.

Rendering of a guestroom at the Riu Plaza New York Times Square.The property is two blocks from the site where the Edition brand created by Marriott International and boutique hotelier Ian Schrager is slated to open its second New York property in 2017.

It is also four blocks south of where Amsterdam-based hotelier Citizen M made its U.S. debut in March and six blocks south of the recently remodeled 480-room Novotel New York Times Square, which was sold this year to Millennium & Copthorne Hotels for $273.6 million.

Luque shrugged off concerns that efforts to expose Riu, which is a lesser-known brand in the U.S., may get lost in the shuffle with all the activity now on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and in midtown Manhattan.

"Riu has very strong commercial relations with the most important wholesalers around the globe," Luque said. "Both traditional and online partners advise us where to place our properties in order to grow together.

"In this scenario, Miami Beach and New York City are strategic destinations to position and build our brand due to the billboard effect hand in hand with our key accounts."

Jan Freitag, senior vice president of strategic development at STR, said that "while putting its money behind an unproven brand in such expensive U.S. markets is risky, the move could very well pay off for Riu because of such exposure the hotels will immediately get with both guests and potential investors."

Both Miami and New York could prove to be particularly valuable markets for the nascent Riu Plaza brand because of the high number of European and Latin American visitors already familiar with the Riu brand, said both Freitag and Mark Eble, regional vice president at PKF Hospitality.

"If you're in Panama or Mallorca or Madrid, and planning a vacation to New York and saw a Thompson and a Riu, you'd reach for the Riu," Eble said.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI