In southern New Jersey, The Westin Mount Laurel, part of the Marriott portfolio, recently completed a $7-million renovation that included upgrades to guestrooms, lobby and atrium areas, restaurant and bar, fitness center, and indoor pool.
Perhaps most importantly, the renovation upgraded the hotel's two ballrooms and 10 meeting rooms, part of a bid to attract more (and larger) groups to the hotel and the region at large. The property's Grand and Regency ballrooms can hold up to 1,000 and 600 people, respectively—up from 1,000 when the hotel originally opened in 2008. The grand ballroom got new custom-built chandeliers as a focal point. We are confident this extensive renovation will help us attract more corporate meeting planners and wedding couples, as well as business travelers,” Scott Robinson, announced as the hotel’s GM, said.
The redesign incorporated natural and contemporary elements as well as open spaces. Carpets, wall coverings and lighting fixtures were also upgraded throughout the property’s guestrooms and public spaces.
“We’re enhancing the overall event experience here at the Westin,” Holly Laird, director of sales and marketing for the property, said, noting the hotel’s F&B program as a major draw for groups. To that end, the Westin’s Bellagio Ristorante and Bar 555, meanwhile, were reconfigured and redecorated to allow for more guest seating.
The 175-guestroom Westin Mount Laurel is owned by Westmont Hospitality Group. Located near the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 295 and Route 73, the hotel is also near Philadelphia and the Philadelphia International Airport.
South Jersey's Struggles
The renovation is part of a larger regional push to attract the MICE industry to South Jersey. In late 2015, Harrah's Atlantic City opened the Waterfront Conference Center, which has more than 100,000 square feet of conference space. The $125-million venue is now the largest events facility between Baltimore and Boston, with two 50,000 square-foot ballrooms that can be configured in up to 200 different ways. By the next year, The Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City announced plans to build a 15,000-square-foot conference center as part of a $3-million project
But even with the Harrah's and Claridge expansions, Atlantic City was still struggling to bring in the groups, and Meet AC, Atlantic City's convention and visitor's bureau, was predicting a 40 percent drop in roomnights from earlier predictions. Last May, Jeff Albrecht, the board chairman at Meet AC and GM of the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, signed a letter addressed to Gov. Chris Christie, Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, state senate president Steve Sweeney and assembly speaker Vincent Prieto, which publicly aired the seaside town's grievances. “Economically speaking, we are losing tens of millions of dollars over the next one to five years. Even our New Jersey state (groups) are nervous about returning to Atlantic City. And our existing customers are asking for ‘out’ clauses in their contracts," the letter said.
South Jersey hotel occupancy for the first quarter of 2017 was 53.2 percent, a 3.4 percent decrease over the same time frame in 2016, according to STR. Regional ADR over the first quarter of the year was $81.76, a decrease of 2.7 percent over last year. RevPAR, meanwhile, was $43.47 in Q1, a 6 percent decrease over last year. At the same time, South Jersey's supply in Q1 2017 increased 1.7 percent over last year, while demand decreased by 1.8 percent.