Ritz-Carlton will vie for workers, but not guests
The Ritz-Carlton won’t try to steal other high-end properties’ guests when it returns to Aspen in fall 2000, but it’s inevitable that it will compete for workers, according to industry experts.
The general managers of The Little Nell hotel and St. Regis Hotel in Aspen said they welcome the Ritz-Carlton Club to the market and believe there are enough potential guests in the high-end niche to go around.
“Even if we’re competing, I think it’s very healthy competition,” said Little Nell hotel general manager Eric Calderon.
The Ritz-Carlton is bound to attract new guests to town thanks to its reputation and marketing firepower, said Calderon. Plus, it will add much-needed beds at certain times of the year that are already booked, he said.
St. Regis Hotel general manager Scott Morris also predicted there would be very little sharing of customers between his luxury hotel and the new club.
Both noted that they offer a different product then the Ritz-Carlton will offer at the fractional interest condominiums. Diplomatic re-entry Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. announced last week that it is creating a subsidiary – the Ritz-Carlton Development Co. – that will own and operate 73 fractional ownership condominiums at Aspen Highlands Village.
Aspen is one of two sites where the international hotelier is entering the new and exploding luxury timeshare business.
The company, which formerly operated what is now the St. Regis in Aspen until August 1997, is re-entering the Aspen market very diplomatically.
“By no means are we going to come into the market saying we’re going to steal guests from the Hotel Jerome or Little Nell hotel,” said Bob Phillips, vice president of development for the Ritz-Carlton Development Co. “We’re not out to take anyone’s business away,” he said.
The fractional ownership opportunities might appeal to people who currently stay at properties like the Hotel Jerome, Little Nell and St. Regis, he acknowledged. But Aspen’s real estate opportunities have always been an option for those hotel guests. Club will be major player Without a doubt, the Ritz-Carlton Club will become a major player in Aspen’s tourist accommodation industry as soon as its condos start to come on line a little more than a year from now.
It will be the fourth-largest property in Aspen with 192 bedrooms or, as the accommodations industry measures size, about 384 pillows. The St. Regis Hotel, the Gant Condominiums and the Aspen Square Condominiums are the only other individual properties offering more pillows, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Aspen Central Reservations. The Silvertree Hotel in Snowmass Village is also larger.
Phillips said he anticipates it will take three or four years to sell the club’s condominiums. Ownership will be offered in 1/12 fractions, which amounts to 28 days of use. Prices will range from $85,000 to $335,000, depending on condo size and location.
Once the club is fully sold, it’s expected to have an average annual occupancy of between 75 and 80 percent, according to Phillips.
Club members and their registered guests can use the condos. They cannot be rented out once the club’s condos are completely sold. Competition for workers The addition of a luxury property will increase already fierce competition for quality workers.
Phillips said the Ritz-Carlton Club and its 130-seat, full-service restaurant will employ an estimated 80 people.
It’s the competition for those workers rather for guests that have other property managers spooked.
When asked how it would affect The Little Nell’s ability to hire enough help, Calderon responded, “It’s not going to help, is it?”
Likewise, St. Regis’ Morris said more demand for a scarce supply makes it difficult.
Phillips said the Ritz-Carlton Club may bring in some key managers, then start recruiting early in Aspen.
“We know it’s going to be tough,” he said. “It was tough when Ritz-Carlton was there with a hotel.”
Gerald Hines, the developer of Highlands Village, is building about 100 affordable housing units, ranging from dorms to four-bedroom, single-family homes. However, few if any can be reserved for Ritz-Carlton employees. Almost all units are open to Aspen’s workers at large.
Phillips said Ritz-Carlton Development Co. plans to be “flying this flag over the property as long as the members will have us.” Therefore, it needs to ensure it has employees to provide the quality service its buyers demand. That means it must get involved in providing affordable housing.
“We’re going to do everything we can do as far as affordable housing,” Phillips said.
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Mario Ruiz came to Aspen Highlands from Bariloche through the ski patrol exchange as part of the Sister Cities program last winter. He quickly ingrained himself with the Highlands patrol. Ruiz was killed July 27 in an avalanche while working at his home ski area. The Highlands patrol is raising funds for his family.