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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Execs Say Future is Bright for New Renaissance Hotel

17 January 2005

The new Renaissance Las Vegas may be a nongaming hotel, but its owners admit it was a gamble to build it.

Today, a month after opening the doors of the 14-story property with 518 rooms and 30 suites, owners believe that they probably could have built a larger hotel and that already, their gamble is paying off.

"We were told, 'You're crazy to only build 500 (rooms). You should build 2,000,' " said Larry Brown, general manager of the Marriott-affiliated hotel at Paradise and Desert Inn roads. "But then, we wouldn't have been able to provide the kind of hospitality we wanted to have."

The $100 million Renaissance got a test of enormous proportions last week when the city played host to the International Consumer Electronics Show at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.

"We knew we were going to do all right because the hotel was filled to capacity," Brown said. "We figured our restaurant would have pretty good breakfast traffic and maybe some at dinner. We were told that no one would come over during lunch. But during CES, it was almost overwhelming."

Richard Chamberlain, culinary director of the Renaissance's 176-seat Envy Steakhouse, said his staff arranged to set up 100 club sandwiches on the first day of CES. They were ordered and served within an hour and the staff ended up making twice as many.

Lewis Shaw, chairman and chief executive officer of Dallas-based Jackson-Shaw Co., which has a regional office in Las Vegas, said the property already has become a location for business people to get off the convention floor for one-on-one discussions.

"It's a seller's hotel," Shaw said. "It's a place for a more individual experience, a place where you don't let your competitor see who you're having a conversation with. When they have these meetings in their rooms and suites, they'll order 10 of those club sandwiches at a time."

In addition to the rooms and suites, the Renaissance has 19,600 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center, spa and swimming pool, a 459-space parking structure, a business center and later this week will open a coffee show that will serve Starbucks coffee. The hotel provides about 1,000 jobs.

Jackson-Shaw also operates the 325-room Hampton Inn Tropicana and the company has developed several other commercial properties throughout Southern Nevada. The company employs 120 people in the Las Vegas office.

Brown said the property already has booked 65 to 70 percent of its rooms for 2005 at an average room rate of $259 -- considerably more than Las Vegas' average daily room rate of $90.20 in November. Many CES guests already reserved rooms for 2006.

Brown said while convention traffic and leads from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will help fill rooms during busy convention periods, slow meeting times still aren't going to pose a problem for the property. That's where the Marriott connection comes in.

Jurgen Giesbert, senior vice president of North American operations for Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, a Marriott brand, said the corporate network would continue to be a resource for filling the hotel during slow periods.

"It's the best of both worlds," Giesbert said. "We have the convention traffic and we market specifically to small meetings that are too small for some of the large resorts to handle and we also have the connection with Marriott."

The executives aren't even worried when Wynn Las Vegas opens its doors nearby in April.

"They'll be after a whole different customer, their competitors will be the MGM Grand and the Bellagio," Giesbert said. "If they overfill their hotel, they may look at our hotel as a friendly little fellow down the street."

Renaissance officials view the Las Vegas Hilton and the Westin Casurina as their competitors, although they look at both of them as "group" hotels and not business customer-focused. Plus, they offer casinos -- a feature they feel Renaissance customers are trying to escape for lodging purposes.

The company does have a friendly relationship with the Hard Rock Hotel, offering rooms to its overflow customers while recommending casino forays there to Renaissance guests. They said they may eventually develop a shuttle bus between the two properties.

Shaw said so far, the owners are extremely happy with their early successes. And while expansion isn't a possibility on the existing 2.94 acres, Shaw said they could someday look at adjacent land for growth.

"This project is a movie, not a snapshot," Shaw said. "We're going to have to wait and see how it all plays out."