One of New York’s new luxury hotels tempts guests with skyline views and a 15-minute ride to Midtown, at rates as low as $199 a night.
The catch? The Ravel Hotel isn’t in Manhattan. It’s across the East River in Queens.
Manhattan’s soaring room and occupancy rates are driving guests to hotels being built from Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Long Island City, Queens, to Hoboken, New Jersey. That’s helping neighborhoods in the outer four boroughs and towns across the Hudson River stake a claim to more of the $28 billion a year that visitors spend in New York City.
For bargain-minded tourists, these areas offer more affordable access to Manhattan attractions from the Empire State Building to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“We decided we wanted to spend our money on shows and shopping,” said Holly Pfeifer, a library assistant from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who stayed at the Ravel in April. “It was worth it for us to go to Queens and get a better value.”
They faced room rates that averaged $477 a night in New York City, compared with $220 for all of New York state, in a survey by AAA, the largest U.S. motorist organization. Rooms cost 60 percent more last year than in 2002, according to Smith Travel Research in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
The tide of visitors increased 5 percent to 46 million last year, said NYC & Co., the city tourism agency. They swelled hotel occupancy to 84 percent, Smith Travel said.
Hotels in Works
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., based in White Plains, New York, and InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, based in Windsor, England, are among chains adding hotels on Manhattan’s outskirts. Fifty-five hotels are in development in the four outer boroughs and in Hudson County, New Jersey, according to Lodging Econometrics, a hospitality research firm in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
“For many of these locations, it’s been years if not decades since they’ve seen a major influx of commercial hotels,” said Sean Hennessey, chief executive officer of Lodging Advisors LLC in New York. “It’s a substantial phenomenon.”
Hoboken will get a W Hotel next year. Brooklyn’s downtown, Williamsburg and Park Slope are getting boutique hotels. In the Bronx, V3 Hotels is building near where the New York Yankees baseball team is constructing its replacement stadium, said Ben Nash, chief executive officer.
Borough officials nurture the trend. Queens put a tourist bureau in a refurbished subway car to provide information on sites such as the New York Hall of Science and restaurants in Flushing, Jackson Heights and other neighborhoods. The Queens Economic Development Corp. set up a tourism Web site.
Welcoming Queen Mary
In Brooklyn, Borough President Marty Markowitz persuaded Carnival Corp.’s Cunard line to dock the Queen Mary 2 at the renovated Red Hook piers rather than in Manhattan. He backed developer Forest City Ratner Cos. in planning a $4 billion project with a hotel, condominiums, offices and an arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, which plans to move to the borough.
New hotels help draw tourists to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and other attractions they might not visit from Manhattan lodgings, Markowitz said.
“There were local restaurants and shops that were enjoyable and that I never would have gone into if I weren’t staying in Brooklyn,” said Anna Stramese, a retired theater professor from Los Angeles.
Accommodations like Brooklyn’s Hotel Le Bleu, which opened in November, showcase the transformation of some neighborhoods.
“My image of the outer boroughs was of drug dealers,” said Patrick Stern, 28, an accountant from Madison, Wisconsin, who stayed at the Le Bleu. “I didn’t expect the upscale neighborhoods.”
Other visitors remain focused on Manhattan even when they’re not sleeping there. Pfeifer’s group of eight didn’t use their seven-day trip to explore Queens. Instead, they took the subway to Manhattan for shopping at Macy’s in Herald Square, dinner at Patsy’s Pizzeria and a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.
“I would love to come back and do just a Queens trip,” and sample food from its ethnic restaurants, said Pfeifer, 47.
Vincent Roy, 27, an electrical engineer from Lyon, France, said he enjoyed Brooklyn’s eateries during a monthlong business trip when he stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Park Slope. When it came time for sightseeing, he headed for Central Park and Chinatown.
“Manhattan is Manhattan: It’s the place that most people want to be, whether it’s perception or reality,” said Joseph Spinnato, chief executive of the Hotel Association of New York City. Hotels ringing the city may have to overcome an image of being also-rans, he said.
Stamp of Approval
Getting a hotel is “almost a validation that a community has arrived,” said Matthew Ouimet, president of Starwood, the third-largest U.S. hotel company. Starwood plans hotels for Hoboken, Brooklyn and Queens.
Ravi Patel, 34, who owns the Ravel, is luring guests with amenities such as free shuttle service and a rooftop bar. The hotel sits beneath the Queensboro Bridge and overlooks a power plant.
He said he’s counting on European tourists who find the dollar exchange rate a bargain.
“They are used to staying in a more edgy area,” he said.