Completely buying out a hotel – where a private party
"owns" the hotel for a pre-arranged number of nights – has long been a
popular option for celebrities seeking total privacy.
Tiger Woods famously took over the five-star Sandy Lane in Barbados for his wedding in
2004; Angelina Jolie, a fan of the luxury Aman resorts, is known for buying out
entire properties (most notably Amansara in Siem Reap in
2011); while Lady Gaga took over the Montalto Estate outside Dublin when on
tour in 2012.
But hotel buyouts are also proving to be popular in
the business world, particularly in the United States.
David Gabri, president and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International
(ALHI) headquartered in Orlando, Florida, has been handling hotel buyouts for
almost 30 years. His company, a global sales operation with an association of
independently owned four- and five- star hotels, secures hotel buyouts for group
During a buyout, the hotel is closed off to anyone
that is not a guest of the group, and all amenities (including restaurants,
lounges, spa and meeting spaces) are exclusive to the party. But the main perk is
being able to transform the hotel into your own space for the duration of the
contract. For example, ALHI once bought Chateau
Elan, a 275-room boutique resort with a winery and golf course in
Braselton, Georgia, for three days, temporarily renaming the hotel
"Chateau ALHI" by changing all the signage.
It's rare for a hotel to decline a buyout opportunity,
considering there is guaranteed revenue and the ease of working with just one
client. According to Gabri, there is little risk for the hotel, though it is
unusual for a busy city hotel to agree to a buyout. Most work with boutique
hotels in rural landscapes, where exclusivity is heightened.
And with the economy bouncing back from the 2012 recession,
Gabri is seeing the number of business buyouts increasing.
"There's a sense of exclusivity that executives
love these days,” Gabri said. “Businesses are advancing, mergers are happening,
networking is imperative and making new connections is key." Businesses
know that hotel buyouts can help impress clients. "'Luxury' and
'distinctive' are in right now. Customers, associations, clients… they all want
things unique and memorable."
The trendy Washington School House,
a 12-room hotel in a 1880s-era school building in Park City, Utah, has had
several buyouts since opening in December 2011. The boutique space promises a
level of intimacy, while hotel amenities include a chic après-ski lounge, a heated
pool terrace and easy access to outdoor excursions such as fly fishing, ice skating,
snowboarding and snow skiing. Privacy, according to general manager Jessica
Davis, is the biggest benefit for the client, while for the hotel, the buyout ensures
occupancy is at 100%.
San Diego Hotel and Marina in California, has buyouts a few times a
year, possibly due to its excellent location on San Diego Bay, just minutes
from the San Diego Convention Center,
San Diego Zoo and airport. According to Russ Mitchell, director of
sales and marketing, there has been a rise of interest in the last year from
groups and planners wanting to brand the hotel. "There
are many reasons a group may require a buyout, including confidentiality around
a new product,” Mitchell said. “Or they may not want to share the hotel space
with another group."
The proof that hotel buyouts have really spread to the
mainstream though, is that wedding groups have jumped on the bandwagon. More
hotels (even those without in-house wedding planners) are offering their whole property,
giving wedding parties an improved rate and creating exclusive event packages.
The historic 33-room Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, Rhode
Island, is no stranger to wedding buyouts, averaging four a year due to its
intimate size and elegant setting. Marina Asiandiou, general manager, believes it
will be a lasting trend.
"When it comes to weddings, this is a lifetime
experience that requires all friends and family to get together."