Witnessing the Birth of a Hotel

 

Brian Dye
At The St. Regis, I’m shown here with Brian Dye, director of sales & marketing, The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, who was kind enough to give me a tour of the hotel. Brian told me he definitely sees luxury travel advisors as his top target market for the resort.

Collins Avenue in South Beach was closed off on the morning of January 19 because of a car accident, which meant our ride up to The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort involved a one-hour detour, thanks to tight, one-way roads that comprise the historical resort area. By the time we rolled up to The St. Regis, which was literally opening its doors to the public for the first time, we were directed to the lower level because the ribbon-cutting festivities were taking place on the upper level. So we went inside and took the elevator up to the lobby.

Which is why we were standing inside The St. Regis Bal Harbour when its front doors opened, rather than outside with everyone else. It was a remarkable experience for me, a lover of luxury hotels, to see the rapt looks on the faces of the crowd of dignitaries, guests and journalists as they entered the newborn hotel, charmed as they branched out into its beautifully adorned public spaces. This hotel has long been anticipated while it lingered in development. Now that it has finally opened, one could make a convincing case that it is the new jewel in the crown for the St. Regis brand.

In case you’re wondering where Starwood Hotels & Resorts got nine acres of oceanfront beach property north of Miami Beach, The St. Regis is built on the site of the Sheraton Bal Harbour. That’s why you haven’t heard anything of the old hotel, which enjoyed some heady heydays in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. It was knocked down, and Starwood, which owns the property, replaced every inch of the Sheraton. What resides in that space now is an ultra-luxury hotel that reflects the maturation of Miami Beach. Bal Harbour has evolved into a very classy area with a social scene to rival Palm Beach. The very affluent locals quickly made their way into the hotel that weekend to check out all the restaurants and the very elegant St. Regis Bar. Paul James, the global brand manager for St. Regis, said that the residents of Bal Harbour had been telling him that they couldn’t wait for the hotel to open so they could recommend it to friends visiting the area—and so that they could also experience it for themselves.

“So, we’re feeling we’re more a part of the community rather than just a lovely bubble of people from outside this area,” James told me. “I would expect a lot of people to be coming to The St. Regis Bar and spilling out onto the terrace. I’m waiting for the day when [General Manager] Marco Selva tells me the J&G Grill isn’t big enough,” he said.

As for the transient market, James said that St. Regis considers itself a brand that’s appropriate for what it calls internally, “Gen Luxury.”

“We’ve got Gen X and Gen Y in that space and we know that Gen X is taking control; they’re in political offices and in the CEO suites. They grew up with Monty Python. They get jokes and they get irony and they get design. They’re being pushed and chased by Gen Y, which grew up in a totally connected world. So they can see business in a global environment rather than in a national one.”

These are the loyal followers of St. Regis, said James, and they’re very intent that the luxury service bestowed on them has to be smart. They don’t want to be hovered over but they don’t want to think about asking for things. For that reason, St. Regis has retrained its signature butler service for a generation that needs to cozy up to the idea of someone wanting to do things for them, like packing and unpacking.

Fun stuff! St. Regis butlers are indeed on the scene in Bal Harbour, as is the brand’s signature St. Regis Bloody Mary. For my full report, see pages 12 and 14 and for photos of the opening, see page 46.

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