Landmark Luxury

New York City’s Waldorf Astoria has inspired an elegant new brand

By: Janeen Christoff

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It really makes a statement when the hotel that serves as the inspiration for a new brand can boast hosting every president since Herbert Hoover. But New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel has always had a flair for the dramatic.

And its signature brand of elegance is on the move, spreading across the country — and the world — under the auspice of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Collection, a new brand of iconic hotels inspired by this Gotham classic. So, what makes a Waldorf Astoria? A bit of background on the collection’s namesake should give agents insight into the make up of these properties.


The Waldorf Astoria’s Silver Corridor // © 2009 Waldorf=Astoria Hotel

Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels, viewed the Waldorf Astoria as the ultimate prize and referred to the property as “the greatest of them all,” according to Waldorf Astoria general manager, Eric Long.

“He kept a photo of the hotel under the glass on his desk,” said Long. “And that became his mission until he acquired management rights in 1949.”

Now, the iconic New York City hotel, one of the first to combine “luxurious elegance with a myriad of amenities,” has inspired an entire Hilton brand.

“No matter where you go, just the mention of the Waldorf Astoria draws an image for everyone of the very best and the very finest luxury hotel possible,” said Long. “It has become quite a powerful name. To apply that name to a brand, there is nothing that conveys that kind of timeless luxury than being designated a Waldorf Astoria property.”

The building, at 301 Park Avenue, is an art-deco masterpiece designed by Schultze and Weaver and built in 1931. It is the second building the hotel has occupied. The first, on Fifth Avenue, was originally a mansion owned by William Waldorf Astor, the hotel’s namesake. Today, the Empire State Building resides on the spot where the original hotel once was.

Famous Waldorf Astoria visitors include Fortune 500 CEOs, Hollywood A-listers and dignitaries, both foreign and domestic. The Obamas have already dined at the hotel, and President Obama plans to spend several nights at the property in September.

The Brand
A brand following in these footsteps has big shoes to fill, but, according to Jeff Diskin, senior vice president of customer marketing and global head of luxury brands, Hilton is committed to the task.

“The Waldorf Astoria brand was inspired by a desire to offer guests the opportunity to stay at hotels that were each as singular and defining of luxury as the brand’s elegant namesake,” said Diskin.

According to Diskin, the Waldorf Astoria Collection will feature timeless, iconic properties that span the globe.

“Each property in the Waldorf Astoria Collection must be an iconic, landmark hotel that radiates timeless luxury, rich service traditions and style,” he said.

Encompassed into the entire collection are two distinct Waldorf Astoria brands — The Waldorf Astoria Collection and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.

“Each Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resort and Waldorf Astoria Collection hotel deliver a level and style of service that is uniquely Waldorf,” said Diskin.

Defined by world-class style and service, each property in the brand will, in some way, be a landmark.

“The majority of the collection will consist of existing properties but, in some cases, unique new properties that are expected to quickly become local landmarks will be admitted,” said Diskin.

Such is the case with the Dakota Mountain Lodge & Golden Door Spa in Park City, Utah, which opens this month.

Although, at present, the brand has hotels in North America and Europe, the Waldorf Astoria Collection will resonate on a global scale.

“We anticipate a robust global growth for the brand as we add both Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, as well as Waldorf Astoria Collection hotels,” said Diskin.

Currently, the collection consists of existing properties that exemplify the Waldorf Astoria’s signature class of luxury.

“[Hotel owners] have found the opportunity to affiliate with the collection quite appealing because the Waldorf Astoria name resonates throughout the world as a synonym for luxury and elegance,” said Diskin.

These properties include the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Ariz.; The Bentley Hotel in London; Casa Marina Resort in Key West, Fla.; Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Hawaii; La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, Calif.; and more.

Numerous hotels have been added this year, including such noteworthy properties as the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla.; The Roosevelt in New Orleans; The Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz.; Trianon Palace Versailles in Versailles, France; The Rome Cavalieri in Rome, Italy; and the El Conquistador and El San Juan hotels in Puerto Rico.

“When guests note that a property is a member of the Waldorf Astoria Collection they know what they can expect,” he added.

Driving the brand is its focus on luxury and service, which is intended to match that of the original Waldorf Astoria.

“The luxurious accommodations, sparkling and attentive service and signature accoutrements express the refinement and sophistication of each hotel as a truly iconic part of the local community,” said Diskin.

According to Diskin, luxury standards and local culture are reflected throughout the Waldorf Astoria guest experience, from the selection of the guestroom appointments and the styled accommodations, to the social milieu of each hotel’s grand spaces, from the cuisine to the spa, fitness and world-class golf.

“Each hotel is a true destination and gathering place,” said Diskin.

The Grand Wailea Hotel & Resort in Hawaii, which became a member of the Waldorf Astoria Collection in 2007, is an example of the brand’s signature style of luxury.

According to Christina Yamul, director of public relations and marketing communications at the Grand Wailea, even before it opened in 1991, it was evident that the Grand Wailea was on a successful journey to becoming an iconic hotel.

“[The hotel] depicts Hawaiian elegance on a grand scale, with architectural significance, a unique decor, original artwork and a reputation for excellent products and service,” she said.

And the hotel is making efforts to uphold its reputation.

“From restaurants and lounges, the beach and pool, the spa and salon, the guestrooms and the landscaping to our internal operations, the Grand Wailea is committed to enhancing its already remarkable features,” said Yamul.

In 2008, the Grand Wailea invested in several renovation projects, including more than $50 million in renovation and upgrades to guestrooms.

Now, the Grand Wailea welcomes guests with a blend of European and Polynesian decor, including new carpeting, freshly painted buttercup walls, dark-wood furnishings, 37-inch, flat-screen televisions and new soft goods. The bathrooms have been enhanced with new European frameless shower enclosures, upgraded fixtures, lighting and artwork, complementing the existing oversized soaking tubs, marble vanities and sinks and accessories.

“The guestroom decor is designed to create a unique and luxurious residential experience consistent with The Waldorf Astoria Collection,” said Yamul.

Coming Soon
The first newly built Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resort, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, is scheduled to open Oct. 1, exactly 78 years after the landmark Waldorf Astoria in New York City opened.

Situated on 482 acres, the resort is surrounded on three sides by the Walt Disney World Resort and located within Orlando’s Bonnet Creek development. Having a flair for the dramatic, the stately lobby features a large, handcrafted clock inspired by the iconic lobby clock at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The property will also boast firsts for the Waldorf Astoria Collection, including a Rees Jones-designed golf course, a signature pool encircled by private cabanas and signature Waldorf Astoria restaurants, Bull & Bear Steakhouse, Oscar’s and Peacock Alley. Also on the property is a Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain and 28,000 square feet of meeting space.

Future Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resorts will include the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund projected to open in 2011 and the Waldorf Astoria Montreal in 2013.