The Kixby Hotel, which was previously Hotel Metro and the Collingwood Hotel more than a century ago, is celebrating 120 years of being part of the opulent Herald Square neighborhood in New York.
Managing partner and co-owner Justin Arest opened the Kixby in fall of 2019, mixing the luxurious Beaux-Art architecture with an up-to-date, edgy feel. The hotel’s redesign was completed by Rockwell Group.
In an interview with Hotel News Now about the building’s 120th anniversary, Arest said he’s proud to continue the legacy of its rich history. When the building was constructed in 1903, Herald Square was a thriving theater district.
Arest said he makes a point to give back to the community through partnerships with Macy’s and other businesses. The hotel sources all of its in-room amenities from Malin and Goetz, a sustainable skincare, fragrance and candle company headquartered nearby. Arest’s team is also involved with the Business Improvement District.
“I really have always believed in giving back, and not just in terms of money if we can, in terms of room nights perhaps, but also in terms of our time,” he said. “I served on the community board that Herald Square falls in; it’s called Community Board Five. I couldn’t anymore because I don’t live in the city anymore so I wasn’t eligible, but I do try to help in ways that I can. We are very closely tied with New York City Tourism; we believe that even if it’s improving things for our competitors, we all need to work together to improve Herald Square [and] Manhattan in general.”
The hotel is leaning into its anniversary with a “120 Days of Summer” package to offer guests accessible luxury from May 15 to Sept. 12.
“I’ve worked with [public relations partner] Gizem Ozcelik since the launch [of the hotel]. This idea is something we’ve always talked about, and trying to find ways to not only promote the property, not only make sure more people are aware of what we’re doing and hopefully wanting to experience it for themselves, but also to do things in clever ways at opportune times where they can experience the [food-and-beverage] offerings at even more of a reasonable rate,” he said. “This took a lot of work from Gizem and her team; they put this together and I love it. My hope is in the future there will be other things like this.”
Guests can book a room for $130 every Friday with in-room goodies valued up to $120 and early check-in at 1:20 p.m. Its on-site restaurant Black Tap is serving burgers for $1.20, and its cocktail lounge Lot 15 as well as its rooftop bar The Lookup will serve drinks for $1.20.
Arest also hopes that as nearby businesses implement summer Friday hours for employees, this will stir up foot traffic to the hotel.
Throughout the Kixby’s various incarnations, the people running it have been close-knit and loyal, Arest said.
“You’d be pretty surprised in the number of employees that have been with us over 20 years. Even with new, great talent, they immediately become part of that family. We do monthly family meals; I try to be there at least every other month. We just want to keep that culture alive, because not only is it important for us and who we are, I do believe it’s important for the guest,” he said.
Arest said he understands the family aspect that’s rooted in hospitality, which he learned at the age of 7 when we worked at his family’s hotel in Murray Hill, New York. While there, he welcomed guests at the front desk and operated the elevator.
“I truly believe that what has impacted me the most and been most beneficial in my business life, in my civic life, just all around, have been two things: my law background and hospitality. A hospitality experience, for anyone that can have it, is really just an incredible asset. That’s part of how we can try to encourage more people to get into hospitality. There’s quantitative aspects to what can drive people to anything. From a qualitative perspective, we always try to show appreciation [and] also have people grow, even if it means they go somewhere else, even if it means they rise to a position that isn’t available with us; we want people to succeed,” he said.
Arest said New York’s path of recovery in tourism since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been linear.
“There were times when I had optimism, and then felt a little deflated. But overall, considering where we were, considering the amount of uncertainty that surrounded us, I’m really happy where we are,” he said. “I’m very optimistic going forward.”
Though demand is not quite where it was in 2019, it’s improved from 2022.
“The [average daily rate] is stronger, which is really important, because our [revenue per available room] is stronger. That balance going forward is again what leads me to be as optimistic as I am, and we’re continuing to find other outlets to market Kixby,” he said.
Arest said his property has strong relationships with international clients, particularly in the United Kingdom, Germany, other destinations across Europe and in Asia and South America.
Based on forecasts, total international visits to the U.S. overall are not expected to fully recover until 2025, Arest said.
“But I think New York City is really strong. It’s always a place people want to go. Relationships have really helped us to come back to where we were,” he said. “One of the impacts of the pandemic for everyone is identifying places where we can all improve, and one of those areas was domestic business. We’re trying to focus on people who live in the region, even Canada and Mexico; I think we’re doing better business.”
Arest said that consumers are still willing to pay a premium to experience unique and local offerings, but only if consistency and quality are part of that.
“Maybe some are taking one fewer trip a year, maybe length of stay is changing, [but] I think a little bit of this becomes even more important. Where you stay becomes more important,” he said.
Data is crucial in all decisions, he said, but it’s been more difficult to discern between who is the business traveler and who is the leisure traveler. Part of this is due to consumers booking more on online travel agencies.
Arest said the work-from-home trend has been a detriment to hotels in some ways but can also present opportunities.
“The business traveler who in the local area was commuting five or four days a week might [now] be commuting two or three days a week. They may also be staying later because they’re trying to accomplish more. They also may want to stay over, which they didn’t necessarily do before, so that’s something we’ve been looking at [and] figure out creative ways to reach out to different companies and individuals. I think very locally that is a little bit of a trend of professionals who want to stay later, start earlier, stay over because they won’t be working from an office five days a week,” he said.
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