Upscale Airport Hotels are Taking Off

By Rayna Katz, May 31, 2019

Ordinarily, meeting attendees and planners aren’t excited to have their program at an airport hotel. There’s a connotation of less than glamours venues.

But new hotels are ready for take off at terminals around the country, while several of those same airports also are undergoing upgrades that, when complete, will give the facilities more appealing looks, greater efficiency and new options for dining, retail and even the viewing of art. 

TWA Hotel 

A $13 billion overhaul is taking place at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The revamped airport is slated to have “made for Instagram” photo opportunities, interior green space, works by local artists, and upgraded retail. The reimagined airport will be anchored by two new world-class international terminal complexes on the airport’s north and south sides. The first new gates will go live in 2023 with projected completion in 2025.

A centerpiece of the improvements is the restoration of the TWA terminal—a 1962 Eero Saarinen-designed landmark—which also will be the lobby of the new TWA Hotel. The only on-airport hotel at JFK will feature 512 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting space in new towers behind the terminal.

InterContinental Hotel at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

Further down the east coast, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport—the nation’s busiest terminal—also is undergoing a big refurbishment. An InterContinental hotel—which is slated to include a conference center—at the facility is being designed, with construction planned for this summer and completion slated for early 2021.

A spokesperson for Intercontinental Hotels was unable to provide a definitive guest room count or to share how much meeting space would be at the facility this far ahead of time, noting that “some details are still in flux.”

Several of the airport’s terminals are being revamped to create more natural light, while others will boast a park-like environment through added foliage. Five gates are being added and a planned terminal, on which construction won’t begin for another decade, is expected to house 10 gates. Additionally, the airport’s “Plane Train” is being extended and upgraded to boost efficiency.

Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles

Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel has added a 7,523-sq.-ft. conference center intended to provide planners with a particularly cost-effective option. Adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport, the 803-room property’s Hub Conference Center provides shared catering packages and breakout spaces with other groups, as well as shared dining facilities with set menus.

“The Hub’s all-inclusive packages give groups the chance to save around thirty percent of what they would pay for an exclusive space,” says Matthew Baker, regional vice president, sales and marketing.

It’s also more efficient, he added. “Meeting planners don’t have to pick a breakfast each day because we rotate what’s served; they don’t need to worry about the audiovisual equipment because it’s permanently there.”

Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach

A full transformation has taken place at the former Carlton Hotel Newport Beach, which has been reflagged as the Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach. The property added 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,000-sq.-ft. event lawn adjacent to the pool, a boardroom and a trio of meeting rooms. It refreshed guest rooms and increased their count slightly too, from 335 to 343 accommodations. Three restaurants also were added to the property: a signature seated restaurant, a bar with craft cocktails and a grab-and-go concept.

Rose Hotel Chicago/O’Hare

Meanwhile, enhancements have been made near a major Midwest terminal. A new boutique property, the Rose Hotel Chicago/O’Hare, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, has debuted. Featuring 165 guest rooms and 6,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel is less than two miles from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, making it the closest off-airport property to the terminal.

The Rose Hotel has an art and visual focus, including lighting behind the front desk that can change color; many windows to provide natural light; a zebra wall and a trio of mannequins by the front desk.

“Wherever you look, you’ll say ‘wow’ and that’s the reaction we want,” says General Manager Micaela Haas. The meeting rooms, she noted, are where “the best part of the art is located.”

Lights shaped like umbrellas hang from the ceiling in one part of the space; design groups have asked to hold dinners there. Another spot has pencils suspended in air that appear to write on the walls.  All of the meeting areas also are linen-less, creating a “cleaner look.”

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