Room to grow
While the East End hospitality market will see a handful of new keys this summer, demand is still outstripping supply, with weekends booking up well in advance and a new influx of international visitors taking rooms during weekdays and the off-season.
During the first three months of 2018, bookings in Suffolk County hotels were up 5.4 percent, according to STR, a data and analytics specialist. The RevPAR, or revenue per available room, for 2017 was $153.75, and occupancy was 67%. The average 2017 RevPAR for the U.S. was $83.46, according to STR. (The county data does not break out the Hamptons specifically.)
Hamptons hotel operators reported seeing an uptick in bookings from international travelers, and it’s not a coincidence: In 2017, the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a campaign to target foreign visitors, marketing the East End as “New York City’s Beachfront Backyard.”
Liz Brodar, owner of the White Fences Inn at Water Mill, said international arrivals were definitely stronger this year — and very welcome, too, she noted, as they fill up rooms that might otherwise be vacant: “They are a good weekday traveler.”
As weekends are booked at Hamptons hotels long before the summer begins, the willingness of foreign visitors to make weekday sojourns on the East End works out well for them and for local hoteliers.
“The reality is that they are full on the weekends in the summer,” said Kristen Jarnagin, the president and CEO of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, whose marketing of the off-season and midweek was fueled by listening to local stakeholders. “We want it to be a good experience.”
Campaigning for key holders
The “New York City’s Beachfront Backyard” campaign was created in partnership with the city’s marketing and tourism arm, NYC & Company, to encourage visitors from the U.K., Canada, Australia and Germany to see more of the Empire State.
Foreign visitors had not been shunning the Hamptons, but they came as more of an afterthought, said Jarnagin. “They were often coming just for a day,” she said. “The concept was to let them know in advance, educating them that we are connected to New York City and a great easy beach getaway.”
To track the effectiveness of the campaign, Jarnagin used two key tech tools to measure the impact of ads: Arrivalist, which measures the connection between mobile ad content and visitor arrivals; and Adara, which tracks potential tourist web activity in real time and builds profiles about travel behavior.
The Surf Lodge in Montauk, with 24 rooms, reported that demand from abroad is probably strongest from Australians, while Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor said it also sees booming interest from the U.K. and France. At the 1770 House in East Hampton, the percentage of Canadian visitors has always been high, but innkeeper Randye Lordon said she’s seen the greatest increase in travelers from Scandinavian countries and Brazil. These visitors find 1770 House largely through word of mouth, she said, adding, “Our winter was very good. Our May is fabulous.”
Jenny Lilja, general manager of East Hampton’s Hedges Inn, said third-party bookings, through sites like booking.com, are increasing at her lodging place. However, she said demand from Manhattan visitors seemed to be somewhat soft, and theorized that competition from Airbnb could be the reason. But there’s an additional challenge: East Hampton Village rules now require permits for events of more than 50 people, and permits can be denied for some outdoor, tented-spaces.
On the flip side, Lilja said her inn and other hotels on the East End were getting a boost this year from the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton in June. She said the weekend around the tournament has been sold out for a year. The 1770 House and others reported being booked solid as well.
In May, Gurney’s Resorts acquired the 107-room Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina from Andrew Farkas’ Island Global Yachting. The property comprises 35 acres and a 232-slip marina. Now known as Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club & Resort, the facility opened for the 2018 season on Memorial Day with changes in food and beverage service. During the fall and winter, about $13 million in upgrades will be made to guest rooms and other facilities.
Gurney’s acquisition expands the brand — owned by George Filopoulos of Metrovest Equities and Lloyd Goldman of BLDG Management — to three Hamptons properties (see story page 24). In 2013, they bought what is now Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, which has 146 rooms, suites and cottages. The duo then expanded the footprint to include the adjacent Panoramic View property, now called the Residences at Gurney’s, offering 26 one- to five-bedroom oceanfront homes, some of which are available to renters.
Meanwhile, on the North Fork, the Preston House & Hotel in Riverhead will bring 20 rooms to the area. The original 1905 home, once the residence of Suffolk County’s first salaried sheriff and a Civil War hero, is now an 88-seat restaurant, with a newly constructed four-story hotel behind it.
“We wanted to be a part of the revitalization of Riverhead,” said executive director Jennifer Petrocelli. The property, purchased about three years ago, is a historic landmark, and some original features, such as the fireplace and wooden beams, were kept.
Petrocelli envisions Preston House being used for rehearsal dinners or bridal-party stays. It’s owned by J. Petrocelli Contracting, which also has several other properties in the area, including the Hyatt Place East End and the Long Island Aquarium.
Hyatt Place’s marketing already targets an international audience, said Petrocelli, who plans to add the Preston House & Hotel to those efforts as well as promoting it to travelers from Nassau County and Brooklyn.
The Preston House & Hotel is a sign of Hamptons-style luxury reaching farther west on Long Island, said Jarnagin of the Visitor’s Bureau: “It is still accessible to the Hamptons and eases the compression.”
The Sound View in Greenport also made a recent debut on the East End hospitality scene in a new incarnation.
The inn opened in August 2017 after a major upgrade from its humble beginnings as a motel. Its new look offers a contemporary version of the original spot, with 55 waterfront rooms.
And in Southampton, the 20-room Latch Pop-Up Inn will keep supply levels up for at least one more summer. Refurbished in 2017, the former Village Latch Inn will operate for a second season as a hotel while its application to convert to condos is still in process.
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