Invit­ing Rio

As Brazil read­ies to host the world, the Mar­velous City’s leg­endary hos­pi­tal­ity is get­ting a makeover

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Dan Booth

The kick­off of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is but weeks away, a month-long sport­ing frenzy in a dozen lo­ca­tions across Brazil from June 12 to July 13. While matches are sched­uled across the coun­try, ar­guably the fo­cal point of the world’s foot­ball uni­verse dur­ing that month will be Rio de Janeiro.

The city is gear­ing up to be the World Cup’s me­dia cen­ter, beam­ing the games around the globe, and the Está­dio do Mara­canã will host three of the 64 matches, in­clud­ing the World Cup Fi­nal on July 13 – a mega-event that’s an­tic­i­pated to draw a bil­lion view­ers.

With over 3.3 mil­lion tick­ets pro­jected to be dis­trib­uted to Brazil­ian fans and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, the Brazil­ian Tourism Board says it ex­pects the month-long World Cup to add $10.9 bil­lion to the coun­try’s econ­omy, with $1.5 bil­lion flow­ing into Rio alone.

The in­flux of tourists com­ing to Rio is spot­light­ing the need to ac­com­mo­date vis­i­tors in num­bers the city has never seen be­fore. And be­yond July, Ci­dade Mar­avil­hosa – the Mar­velous City – is

look­ing for­ward to an­other world event, the 2016 Olympic Sum­mer Games, re­quir­ing even more in­fra­struc­ture build­out, both pub­lic and pri­vate.

More Than Sports

It’s lit­tle won­der that Brazil, and Rio in par­tic­u­lar, is in the midst of a ho­tel build­ing boom. Ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try tracker Lodg­ing Econo­met­rics, the coun­try’s ho­tel pipe­line – new project an­nounce­ments to­gether with those al­ready un­der con­struc­tion – reached a record high 401 projects as of Fall 2013 an­tic­i­pated to add over 67,000 rooms. Of those, the count of ho­tels ac­tu­ally un­der con­struc­tion has also set a record with 175 projects un­der­way that will yield nearly 30,000 additional rooms, even if all the other projects sud­denly va­por­ize.

The align­ment of two global events, the World Cup and the Sum­mer Olympics, may have been the cat­a­lyst for this build­ing boom. And for cor­po­rate trav­el­ers to the re­gion, the added ca­pac­ity should be a wel­come re­lief to the cost of ac­com­mo­da­tions in this “un­der-hoteled,” high-de­mand mar­ket.

But it’s not just the one-off sports at­trac­tions that are draw­ing hote­liers from all over the globe. De­mand from busi­ness trav­el­ers in Brazil is driv­ing costs up­ward. To­tal spend­ing on Brazil­ian busi­ness travel is pro­jected to hit $35.8 bil­lion in 2014, a 12 per­cent jump from the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to a Global Busi­ness Travel As­so­ci­a­tion anal­y­sis.

Brazil is the world’s 7th largest econ­omy and the sheer num­ber of pub­lic and pri­vate in­fra­struc­ture, in­dus­trial, min­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vice sec­tor projects un­der­way across the coun­try will trans­form ho­tel de­vel­op­ment for years into the fu­ture.

The hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try is see­ing a boost all across the re­gion, mak­ing Brazil the undis­puted driver of ho­tel pipe­line de­vel­op­ment, ac­count­ing for 78 per­cent of all pipe­line rooms in South Amer­ica. These new-build ho­tels range from high-end prop­er­ties like Hil­ton and Grand Hy­att, down the scale to value brands such as ibis and Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press.

Get­ting the Pic­ture

To get a spec­tac­u­lar view from a ho­tel win­dow in Rio is no prob­lem. Stun­ning vis­tas abound in Brazil’s sec­ond-big­gest city. The neck­lace of bril­liant beaches that frame the At­lantic vie for at­ten­tion with the lush, steep hills to which col­or­ful fave­las cling pre­car­i­ously, and it’s all looked af­ter by Christ the Redeemer, stand­ing arms out­stretched on the sum­mit of Cor­co­v­ado Moun­tain.

How­ever get­ting a big-pic­ture view of the chang­ing ho­tel scene, with all its

va­ri­ety and spir­ited growth, is a bit more chal­leng­ing. So we’ve put to­gether a choice sam­pling of a few of the prop­er­ties that cur­rently grace the iconic Rio sky­line, to­gether with some of the ex­cit­ing new projects that are ei­ther promised or al­ready un­der con­struc­tion.

The French ho­tel group Ac­cor is a huge pres­ence in the city, with over a dozen ho­tels fly­ing the ibis, Novo­tel, Mer­cure and Sof­i­tel flags. For ex­am­ple, a du­al­branded Novo­tel and ibis ho­tel com­plex is un­der con­struc­tion a mile away from the Olympic Sta­dium. It’s be­ing de­vel­oped by Host Ho­tels, one of the big­gest own­ers of up­scale ho­tels in the US.

In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels Group has an­nounced its re­turn to the Rio mar­ket with two new-build prop­er­ties, the Hol­i­day Inn Porto Mar­avilha and Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press Porto Mar­avilha. The 32-story ho­tels will of­fer a to­tal of nearly 600 gue­strooms – the Hol­i­day Inn will of­fer 244 rooms while the Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press is a 350-room af­fair. They will be lo­cated in Rio de Janeiro’s re­vi­tal­ized down­town area of Porto Mar­avilha (“Mar­velous Port”), and are both ex­pected to open by July 2016 in time for the Olympic games.

Over the decades, the strate­gi­cally lo­cated port area had fallen into de­cay. But be­gin­ning in 2009, spurred on by the im­pend­ing World Cup and Olympics, the city launched a se­ries of projects to re­claim the his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant area. With time, Porto Mar­avilha will wel­come mu­se­ums, parks and new restaurants as the area un­der­goes restora­tion.

Porto Mar­avilha is also the home of the “big­gest ur­ban of­fice com­plex ” of all the BRIC coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to real es­tate bil­lion­aire Don­ald Trump, who’s de­vel­op­ing the project. Trump Tow­ers Rio will con­sist of no fewer than five 38-story sky­scrapers worth over $2.5 bil­lion, two of which should be ready by 2016.

On the Beach

Pos­si­bly the ho­tel that most im­me­di­ately con­jures up Rio’s beach scene is the his­toric Copaca­bana Palace. This el­e­gant property, sit­u­ated on Av­enue At­lantica along­side Copaca­bana beach, opened in 1923 and has been a mag­net for royalty and the no­to­ri­ously rich ever since, ev­ery­one from Mar­lene Di­et­rich and Or­son Welles to El­ton John and Madonna.

The ma­jes­tic art deco Palace was saved from the wreck­ing ball in 1989, when it was bought by the Ori­ent Ex­press ho­tel group, and un­der­went an ex­ten­sive $20 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion be­tween 2011 and 2012, dur­ing which time the ho­tel was closed com­pletely for four months. To­day it boasts 216 rooms, two ex­cel­lent restaurants, a great out­door pool and a 3-story spa.

In ad­di­tion to the afore­men­tioned Porto Mar­avilha project, Trump has also an­nounced a 13-story, 171-gue­strooms beach­front ho­tel lo­cated in the Jardim Ocean­ico. This bor­ough is in the Barra da Ti­juca, the district that will host most of the venues of the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics. As is typ­i­cal of Trump ho­tels, the property will be loaded with ameni­ties in­clud­ing a spa, an in­fin­ity pool, a night­club, fit­ness cen­ter and more.

Also un­der con­struc­tion on the stun­ning seven mile Barra da Ti­juca beach, the 408-room Grand Hy­att Rio de Janeiro will join Hy­att’s Sao Paulo property as the group’s sec­ond ho­tel in Brazil. The ho­tel will fea­ture two restaurants, a lounge, pool bar, patis­serie, fit­ness cen­ter, spa, a 9,600-square-foot ball­room and a fur­ther 14,000 square feet of meet­ing and func­tion space. The property is slated to pre­miere mid-2015.

An­other ho­tel in the fa­mous Barra beach­front is the Radis­son Ho­tel Rio de Janeiro. The con­verted land­mark beach­front property will of­fer 292 gue­strooms and suites, a restau­rant, two bars, a spa, gym, squash court and heated pool. The ho­tel also has nearly 12,000 square feet of flex­i­ble meet­ing space. The ho­tel, the eighth Radis­son in Brazil, missed its open­ing in Jan­uary. No word yet on a firm de­but date.

Then there is the 245-room JW Mar­riott, also sit­u­ated on the Avenida At­lantica in Copaca­bana. The property fea­tures com­pli­men­tary WiFi, an out­door pool, a sauna and a fit­ness cen­ter. Busi­ness ameni­ties in­clude 12 meet­ing rooms, ex­hibit space, sec­re­tar­ial ser­vices and au­dio­vi­sual equip­ment.

The Barra da Ti­juca is the district that will host most of the venues of the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics

More or less at the south end of Avenida At­lantica is an­other of Ac­cor’s prop­er­ties, the Sof­i­tel Copaca­bana. It of­fers 388 rooms in­clud­ing 52 suites, plus in­ter­na­tional and French gourmet cui­sine. Guests also have ac­cess to a sec­tion of the famed Copaca­bana Beach, swim­ming pools, a mix of restaurants, bars, saunas and a spe­cial­ized con­ven­tion and busi­ness cen­ter.

Fur­ther west, past the en­clave of Ipanema, you’ll find an­other iconic Rio sta­ple, the Sher­a­ton Rio Ho­tel & Re­sort. In 2012, the 542-room Sher­a­ton be­gan a multi-mil­lion dol­lar ren­o­va­tion project, part of the eight-property port­fo­lio Star­wood is de­vel­op­ing in ma­jor cities through­out Brazil. The Sher­a­ton Rio has three heated pools – in­clud­ing one for the kids – plus a busi­ness cen­ter, Sher­a­ton Fit­ness and a va­ri­ety of spa ser­vices. Oh, and did we men­tion the beach?

Over­look­ing pris­tine Barra da Ti­juca Beach is sis­ter property, five-star Sher­a­ton Barra Ho­tel & Suites. It boasts 292 rooms, nearly 12,000 square feet of meet­ing space, in­clud­ing two ball­rooms. Surfers love Barra Beach.

A Dash of Dif­fer­ent

De­spite all the news about chain ho­tels and in­ter­na­tional brands spring­ing up across the city, there’s still plenty of lux­ury, quirky and out of the way prop­er­ties for those who en­joy more lo­cal color – or trendier style. Here­with a sam­ple:

The 89-room ocean­front Fasano is part of the Leading Ho­tels of the World collection. Philippe Starck’s first Brazil­ian out­ing, this ho­tel is decked out with 1960s retro fur­ni­ture and funky light­ing. With its lo­ca­tion on the Ipanema-Ar­poador bor­der, it pays homage to the golden age of the bossa nova. Rooms have pri­vate bal­conies with grand views and guests have exclusive ac­cess to a great roof ter­race.

La Suite is a small clifftop ho­tel in Joat­inga, the district next to Barra. This in­ti­mate (seven rooms) and so­phis­ti­cated (col­or­ful dé­cor, in­fin­ity pool) property pro­vides a won­der­ful, slightly out-of-town op­tion, and has a real VIP feel – highly ap­pro­pri­ate in a villa that used to be­long to a Por­tuguese banker.

The Re­lais & Chateaux Santa Teresa is set in a 19th-century cof­fee plan­ta­tion man­sion, sur­rounded by lush, trop­i­cal gar­dens with sweep­ing views of the city in the far dis­tance. Rooms range in size from the 270-square-foot Su­pe­rior rooms to the stylish 1,300-square-foot Loft Suite. The Santa Teresa is a laid-back hide­away from the busy-ness of Rio, and has a real sense of au­then­tic­ity about it.

Small in­de­pen­dently-owned prop­er­ties have al­ways been the bread and but­ter of the ho­tel busi­ness in this quintessen­tially Brazil­ian city. But with thou­sands of rooms in the new-build pipe­line, big brand ho­tels are rapidly mak­ing in­roads and un­mis­tak­ably chang­ing the hos­pi­tal­ity land­scape here. How­ever, re­gard­less of this in­dus­try back­drop, Rio’s ho­tel boom is em­blem­atic of the sweep­ing changes in this vast land de­ter­mined at last to take its place in the global spot­light.

“There is sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity for ho­tel de­vel­op­ment in Brazil due to its sheer size, nat­u­ral beauty, and rel­a­tive un­der-pen­e­tra­tion, par­tic­u­larly at the high end, ”ac­cord­ing to Frits van Paasschen, pres­i­dent and CEO of Star­wood Ho­tels & Re­sorts. “Macro-eco­nomic trends con­tinue to re­shape the Latin Amer­i­can travel and busi­ness land­scape, cre­at­ing strong growth in lodg­ing de­mand and many op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the FIFA World Cup, the Sum­mer Olympics and so much more. The next few years will tell the tale for Ci­dade Mar­avil­hosa. BT

Above clock­wise: ho­tel ibis copaca­bana, Está­dio do Mara­canã and Grand Hy­att Rio de Janeiro

Left to right: Hil­ton Barra and JW Mar­riott Rio de Janeiro

Clock­wise: The Re­lais & Chateaux Santa Teresa, La Suite and Fasano

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