TravelWeekly: Big brands, boutiques spice up the New Orleans hotel scene

09.03.2024

Big brands, boutiques spice up the New Orleans hotel scene

https://www.travelweekly.com/North-America-Travel/Big-brands-boutiques-spice-up-the-Crescent-City-hotel-scene?utm_source=eNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eltrtwweekend&oly_enc_id=5778E9138445C7Z

Forget New Orleans restaurants for a moment, if you can. It's the city's hotel scene that is getting a lot of attention right now.

Luxury brands like Caesars and Fairmont are set to pump glamour and hundreds of hotel rooms into the hospitality industry of one of the top travel destinations in the U.S.

At the same time, a burst of new boutique hotel openings is enhancing the quirky personalities of the city's storied neighborhoods. Not to be overlooked, several enduring treasures, including the elegantHotel Monteleone, have been meticulously refurbished.

"There's no question about it. We're experiencing the biggest expansion in the hotel industry since the 1980s," said Walter J. Leger III, CEO of New Orleans & Co., the city's marketing and tourism organization.

While Leger is pleased with the uptick in brands and hotel rooms, he's just as excited about the smaller lifestyle and boutique hotels opening in his hometown.

And, since it's difficult to keep your mind off food for too long when talking about this city, Leger points out that most new properties feature restaurants serving the cuisines that have made New Orleans a foodie haven.

Hail Caesars

The largest investment in the city's Central Business District (CBD) is from Caesars Entertainment, which is spending $435 million to expand and transform the former Harrah's Hotel & Casino at the foot of Canal Street. Renamed the Caesars New Orleans, the luxury hotel and casino additions should open in September.

A new tower will add 340 rooms and tons of gaming space. Renowned chef Emeril Lagasse's first French restaurant is already open at the site. When the massive food court is finished, Bobby's Burgers by Bobby Flay will be a headliner.

Several floors within the new tower will be a Nobu-branded hotel from the celebrity-run sushi restaurant and hotel company. A Nobu restaurant on the ground floor will serve sushi within walking distance of the French Quarter.

Another 250 rooms will come online in 2025 whenFairmont returns to the Crescent Citywith a new luxury hotel in the CBD to be called the Fairmont New Orleans. (The former Fairmont New Orleans was shuttered after Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage in 2005; it reopened in 2009 but is now theRoosevelt Hotel, part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection.)

A rendering of the Caesars New Orleans, which is slated to open in September at the foot of Canal Street.
A rendering of the Caesars New Orleans, which is slated to open in September at the foot of Canal Street. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment

Small but mighty

As the hospitality and tourism industries rebound, local entrepreneurs are opening design-driven boutique hotels.

One of them is the Rubenstein Hotel, a 40-room property that has opened above the century-old men's store, Rubensteins.

Just steps from the French Quarter, Rubensteins' prime location led the family-owned business to partner with local hotelier J Collection Hotels to create the "fashion-forward" property that opened in late January.

"Many people coming to New Orleans want a stay that's authentic," Rubensteins CEO Ken Rubenstein said. "They want to feel connected to the city and its lifestyle."

The hotel's decor includes fabrics, textiles and colors that established the men's haberdasher as a New Orleans institution. Rubenstein, whose grandfather established the clothier, said the hotel was nearly full for Mardi Gras in February.

Other recent boutique additions include the Chloe, a 14-room hotel in a 19th-century uptown mansion, whose restaurant also wins raves.Hotel Peter & Paulis a former Catholic church and school reimagined as a 71-room designer hotel in four buildings in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, adjacent to the French Quarter.

A Garden District landmark, the Columns, is a stately mansion with balconies overlooking St. Charles Avenue. Built in 1893 as a private residence, the boutique hotel's 19 rooms ooze Southern charm.

The city should have little trouble filling those new hotels in the coming months, given the headline events that are heading to the Crescent City.

The forever-young Rolling Stones areheadlining this spring's Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Taylor Swift brings her Eras Tour to the Superdome for three nights in October. And in early 2025, the Super Bowl will be returning to the city for the 11th time.

Combined with an upswing in the conventions business, the events should drive hotel occupancy rates to 2019 levels of nearly 70%, according to Lauren Hock, a hospitality industry analyst with HVS.

That is good news for those hoteliers who are betting on New Orleans.

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