Exploring the Urbanization of Resorts: Then Vs. Now

By T. Dupree Scovell Managing Partner & Chief Investment Officer, Woodbine Development Corporation | October 29, 2017

Woodbine Development Corporation designed, developed and opened the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio in 1992, the year of MTV VJs and Arsenio Hall. At the time, my father was calling the signals and this was the first of five similar resorts throughout the Southwest that Woodbine was responsible for developing over a period of about 15 years. The formula was pretty consistent: 300+ acres, 500 guest rooms, 100,000 square feet of meeting space ( or more ), two or three golf courses, a water park and a few resort mascots, which have included dogs, longhorns, hawks and spray-less skunks ( don’t ask ).

Some 25 years after the opening of Hyatt Hill Country and more than a decade since we developed our last resort, the page has turned. For better or worse, my brother and I have taken over the managing partner roles within the company. With the support of our seasoned leadership team and under the watchful eye of the ghosts of Woodbine past ( many of whom are rolling over right this very minute ), we embarked on designing and developing a place we believe reflects the next iteration of resorts: Mountain Shadows. This isn’t our father’s resort, literally or figuratively speaking. Here’s what we see to be the present and future paths in the resort development space—a space that’s becoming more city than country, more right-sized than rambling, more meticulously tailored than one-size-fits-all. Today’s Resort Formula: zag where you used to zig.

The term “resort” tends to conjure up a sense of spacious seclusion and luxury. The latter remains true, but the former is no longer essential to the mix. Our company brought Mountain Shadows to life on a smaller 43-acre parcel within a well-established resort and residential area.

Before we go any further, let’s look at what makes an urban resort project like this one appealing. When space is limited ( relatively speaking ), you must have a very clear idea from the outset about who the customer will be and what offerings will be essential to their ideal experience—and then fit those into the space. Oddly, these limitations allow for ample creative freedom with the benefit of more focus.

Furthermore, the urban resort is a destination within a destination, i.e., a city. This means you can design richer, more differentiated on-property amenities and then leverage the city’s best offerings as extensions of your own. This spares you having to bear the operational weight that secluded, spacious resorts generally carry.

As for Mountain Shadows, the resort sits at the base of Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, which is home to some of the most well-known luxury destinations in Phoenix and the nation, including the JW Marriott Camelback Inn, the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, and, eventually, The Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.