_The U.S. hotel industry reported increases in all three key performance metrics in 2011, according to data from STR.
Overall, the U.S. hotel industry's occupancy rose 4.4 percent to 60.1 percent, its average daily rate was up 3.7 percent to US$101.64 and its revenue per available room increased 8.2 percent to US$61.06.
2011 was the first time since 2008 that the industry ended the year with occupancy of more than 60 percent and an ADR of more than US$100.
The industry reported a 0.6-percent increase in supply in 2011 and a 5.0-percent demand increase for the year. Demand has increased 5.0 percent or more only three times since 1987.
"2011 was a strong year for the U.S. hotel industry," said Randy Smith, co-founder and chairman at STR. "Room-supply growth continued to drift downward as room demand reached record levels during the year. Though occupancy and ADR were still below 2007 and 2008 levels, it was still encouraging to see the industry experience a solid rebound during a period of considerable economic difficulties."
"In 2012 the hotel industry will face tough year-over-year comparisons, though we are still optimistic," Smith continued. "With modest gains in occupancy and stronger increases in room rates, we expect RevPAR to increase about 4.3 percent in 2012."
Among the Top 25 Markets, Detroit, Michigan, ended the year with the largest occupancy increase, up 10.2 percent to 59.8 percent, followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida, with a 9.7-percent increase to 60.5 percent. New Orleans, Louisiana, ended the year virtually flat with a 0.4-percent decrease to 64.2 percent.
Two markets ended the year with double-digit ADR increases: San Francisco/San Mateo, California (+13.9 percent to US$155.14), and Oahu Island, Hawaii (+10.0 percent to US$165.05). Atlanta, Georgia (-0.4 percent to US$82.58), and Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Virginia (-0.3 percent to US$84.24) were the only top markets to report ADR decreases in 2011.
San Francisco/San Mateo achieved the largest RevPAR increase, rising 19.7 percent to US$122.54, followed by Nashville (+14.8 percent to US$58.01) and Miami-Hialeah (+14.1 percent to US$115.65). None of the top markets reported RevPAR decreases for the year.
Ernst & Young: Hospitality Sector Recovery Likely to Continue in 2012 Despite Ongoing Global Economic Uncertainty
__Hospitality market fundamentals look set to continue the recovery which started in 2011 in spite of continuing uncertainty and the prospect of further upheaval in the global and regional economies according to Ernst & Young's latest Global Hospitality Insights report published today.
Despite the uncertain global economic environment, hospitality indicators continue to appear positive. "The conventional wisdom suggests that key fundamentals should be on the wane, but that has not happened yet and, due to many factors, we don't believe it will occur in 2012," said Michael Fishbin, Ernst & Young's leader of Global Hospitality Services. Nevertheless, Fishbin suggests hotel operators and investors in the sector need to stay focused and not have a false sense of security by the overall numbers.
"The situation for the hotel industry is markedly different from market to market and global operators need to be on their toes and ready to react to rapidly changing conditions," he added.
Fishbin contrasted hospitality markets in developed economies, such as the US, with some developing economies such as China and Brazil, where construction has been very active. In the US, currently the largest hotel market in the world, the construction of new hotels has historically averaged around two percent per year but in recent years, and for the foreseeable future, is projected to be less than one percent per year. "Even with the uncertain economic outlook, hotel supply is not going to outpace demand any time soon, giving fundamentals such as room rates and overall occupancy a chance to further recover," Fishbin said.
Among emerging economies, Brazil could fare the best over the next decade in part by the impact of two mega events -- the FIFA Soccer World Cup and the Summer Olympics -- scheduled to take place there in 2014 and 2016, respectively. These events will attract millions of travelers to the country and while hotel construction has been increasing in preparation for both events, officials are taking a pragmatic approach in order to avoid overbuilding.
Fishbin concludes that while the bias among hotel companies will be to continue to grow in 2012, that growth should not come without a fair amount of checking back in the rear view mirror. "This isn't a time for hotel operators to abandon the principles that allowed them to navigate through the recent economic downturn," he says. Many companies are still sitting on piles of cash waiting for an opportunity to transact, says Fishbin. "Companies should take advantage of this breathing room to reassess and examine their capital agendas to make sure they are using cash wisely and efficiently as well as preparing for future growth," he says.
Philadelphia's Hotel Room Rates Remain Feather Soft; Regions Recovery Not Expected Until 2013
By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 17, 2011--Debra Cook of Denton, Texas, felt she scored a coup after booking her stay at the four-star Loews Philadelphia Hotel for $100 a night Sunday through Thursday last week, on Priceline.com.
"You can't beat that rate," said the 11th-grade English teacher, who was here for a five-day conference at the National Constitution Center.
But Cook's room savings are costing city hoteliers. While downtown hotels are benefiting from new business brought by the recently expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center, they are charging rates far below 2007 levels because of the sputtering economy and intense competition from other major U.S. cities, primarily New York, Washington and Boston.
"Hotels in the Philadelphia region have not recovered from the recession and are not projected to recover until 2013," said James Gratton, president of the 85-member Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association and general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Downtown.
While hotel rates are slowly come back, he said, they aren't projected to return to 2007 and 2008 levels for at least another two years.
New business created by the Convention Center expansion still leaves rooms to fill.
"If the average convention lasts four days, and we host 20 citywide conventions a year (those requiring 2,000 or more rooms on peak nights), there are still 285 nights a year . . . the hotels will have to fill," Gratton said. "Currently, we are projecting 16 conventions in [both] 2012 and 2013."
Last year's revenue per available room, or RevPar -- the metric used by hotels to measure profitability -- was $104, the same as in 2004 and well below 2007's $122.46.
As of May 30, Center City's year-to-date average daily rate (ADR) was $158.21, compared to Boston's ADR of $179.71, and Washington's $215.59.
Several city hoteliers interviewed contend that if the lower ADR persists, it could cut into profits and hinder the ability of newer hotels to finance their mortgages.
"When you think about operating costs such as commodities and labor, they've all gone up while ADR has gone down," said Nick Gregory, director of operations for Kimpton Hotels Philadelphia and general manager of the 230-room Palomar at 117 S. 17th St. "With occupancy flat, you lose the ability to make a profit."
The result, added Gregory, is "ownership groups come down hard on management to lower amenities to keep costs low. If labor is the number-one expense. . . you have to cut labor."
That, in turn, can diminish the customer's experience, said Bill Fitzgerald, general manager of the 432-room DoubleTree Hotel Philadelphia. "We are having to do more with less."
There's another issue, a serious one for Philadelphia and the expanded Convention Center: Evan Evans, general manager of Le Meridien, which sits across from City Hall, said as profits are squeezed, capital improvement projects such as expansions or renovations are put on hold.
The lower ADR threatens several hotel projects that were intended to support the Convention Center's expansion, which debuted March 4. Four years ago, there were more than 20 such projects in the pipeline. The 268-room Monaco by Kimpton in Old City and the 136-unit Homewood Suites in University City are the only two hotels set to open next year.
"Lenders use ADR and RevPar to determine the health of our industry and make credit decisions," Evans said. "The city needs to add an additional 1,600 guest rooms to support the expansion of the Convention Center, but investors are waiting for ADR to return."
Philadelphia's chief rivals -- New York, Boston and Washington -- are commanding higher rates even though they have more rooms to sell.
With over 66,500 rooms in Manhattan, and as the nation's top tourism draw, New York holds top ranking as a given. Much of Washington's hotel clientele is government-related, which explains its No. 2 spot in ADR.
But Boston's higher room rate than Philadelphia's is puzzling, since both cities have similar historical attractions and walkability. Boston also has far more rooms to sell, 18,189, against 11,160 here.
C. Patrick Scholes, senior gaming and lodging analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said Boston was more of a financial capital and home to several mutual funds and hedge funds.
"This corporate travel segment tends to pay more for rooms," he said. "Whereas in a more leisure-tourism market like Philly, the rates that you can command for that group are less."
Having a smaller footprint also works to Boston's advantage.
"Downtown Boston is a little more congested and harder to build new properties," said Scholes. "It's harder to put up new supply in there and part of why it can command a higher rate."
Boston also has a strong summer convention market and the venue to support it, said Larry Meehan, vice president of tourism sales for the Greater Boston Convention and Tourism Bureau. The much bigger Boston Convention and Exhibition Center opened in 2004, and has a seven-year head start on Philadelphia's expanded center.
There is a silver lining for Philadelphia. The limited supply of new hotels will ultimately boost rates as the larger Convention Center draws customer traffic, say analysts and hoteliers.
For now, Angie and David Hein, of Cromwell, Conn., are taking advantage. The couple stayed one night in a $349-a-night suite with a complimentary upgrade at the Palomar last week after taking in the city's sights.
"Price, location, amenities. We got all three," said Angie Hein, 63, as she checked out last Thursday. Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see more of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.philly.com/inquirer.
Copyright (c) 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer
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May 17, 2011, Atlanta, GA–After two years of declining profits, the average U.S. hotel enjoyed a 9.8 percent bottom line increase in 2010, according to a recently released report, Trends® in the Hotel Industry, issued by PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR). The gain, however, does not make up for the 37.9 percent cumulative loss experienced by U.S. hotels during 2008 and 2009.
While 70 percent of the properties in the Trends® sample enjoyed an increase in total revenue in 2010, only 60 percent were able to convert that into more money in the bank, indicating that the turnaround in industry performance has not occurred evenly across all sectors of the U.S. lodging industry
“In the March 2011 edition of our monthly Hospitality Market Update newsletter, we noted that the driving force behind revenue growth in 2011 starts with the price tier segment you are positioned within,” said R. Mark Woodworth, president of PKF-HR. “The higher the price tier, the greater the projected growth in ADR and, consequently, RevPAR. After analyzing the results of the 2011 Trends® in the Hotel Industry survey, the relationship between price position and profits appears to be as strong as the correlation between room rates and the ability to grow revenue.”
According to the 2011 edition of Trends®, hotels in the highest room rate categories achieved the greatest increases in net operating income in 2010. Conversely, properties in the lowest rate categories either achieved minor increases in profit or suffered their third consecutive year of bottom line declines.
“The full-service properties in the Trends® sample typify this relationship between prices and profits,” Woodworth said. “Within the full-service category, those hotels in the lowest ADR category (less than $100) saw just a slight 0.3 percent increase in profits in 2010. At the other end of the spectrum, upper-upscale and luxury hotels with an ADR greater than $200 enjoyed a strong 33.0 percent gain in profit.”
Each year PKF-HR collects financial statements from thousands of hotel owners and operators across the U.S. for its Trends® in the Hotel Industry report. The 2011 Trends® report marks the 75th anniversary of this publication and provides industry benchmarks for 2010 unit-level revenues, expenses, and profits. For the purpose of this report, profits are defined as net operating income (NOI) before deductions for capital reserves, rent, interest, income taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
Revenue Up For Most Everyone
Nearly 80 percent of hotels in the Trends® sample enjoyed an increase in rooms occupied in 2010, but only 67 percent were able to leverage that into increases in total revenue. On average, the hotels in the Trends® sample achieved a 6.2 percent increase in occupancy, but were unable to raise their room rates. In the aggregate, ADR for the overall sample declined 0.9 percent.
Based on the preceding changes in occupancy and ADR, the Trends® sample averaged a 5.3 percent rise in rooms revenue in 2010. Among the other sources of revenue, food and beverage sales increased 5.6 percent and other operated department revenue rose 2.2 percent, but rentals and other income declined 10.0 percent. The net result was a 4.8 percent increase in total hotel revenue for the overall Trends® sample.
Expense Growth Suppressed
Given the fact that the gains in revenue were driven by growth in the number of rooms occupied, it is not surprising that the costs and expenses to operate a hotel also grew. Total operating expenses increased 3.4 percent in 2010.
“While this growth in expenses was more than double the rise in the consumer price index for the year, it is slightly less than expected given the historical expenditure patterns we observed during the initial stages of past lodging industry recoveries,” said John B. (Jack) Corgel Ph.D., the Robert C. Baker Professor of Real Estate at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and senior advisor to PKF-HR. “Part of the reason for the more modest growth in operating expenses is the continued high rate of unemployment and the resulting lack of pressure on wage rates. Labor costs for U.S. hotels increased a modest 2.7 percent from 2009 to 2010.”
In contrast, the amount spent to purchase all other goods and services needed to operate a hotel (excluding management fees, property taxes, and insurance) climbed 5.3 percent in 2010. The largest increases among these expenditures occurred in the rooms (6.2 percent) and food and beverage (9.3 percent) departments. These higher operated department costs are to be expected, given that revenue growth was driven by increased business volume as opposed to a rise in prices.
Facing dramatic declines in revenue in 2009, hotel managers were effective in cutting all department expenses except fixed charges (property taxes and insurance). “As we predicted in the 2010 Trends® report, the profit declines in 2009 led to decreases in property values in 2010. Accordingly, fixed charges fell 3.8 percent in 2010, the only expense category to be reduced during the year,” Woodworth said.
Profit Growth Varied
On average, unit-level NOI for the Trends® sample rose 9.8 percent in 2010, with the ability to grow profits varying by property type. The greatest gains in NOI were achieved by full-service (+14.4%), resort (+10.4%), and convention hotels (+8.7%). Limited-service (+0.5%) and suite hotels with food and beverage (+1.8%) lagged in their ability to generate more dollars on the bottom line. This diversity of performance follows the previously described observation relating profit growth to price positioning.
Based on the March 2011 edition of Hotel Horizons®, PKF-HR is forecasting that the average hotel in the U.S. will be able to increase their total revenue by 6.8 percent for the entire year. The revenue growth will come from a relatively equal contribution of increases in occupancy and ADR.
Accordingly, hotel operators will need to continue their diligent efforts to control costs. “Assisting management in curbing costs in 2011 will be the continued lack of upward pressure on wages resulting from lingering high levels of unemployment,” said Corgel. “However, commodity price escalation has already contributed to a rise in utility costs, delivery surcharges, and the cost of goods sold. Cost controls might be what dictates hotel profitability in 2011."
For Luxury, Is Smaller Better?
Developers looking at intimate properties as the segment makes a comeback.
It turns out that rumors of the luxury segment’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Now, after that near-death experience, luxury developers have refocused, changing the size, style and mission of their properties.
Pierre Charalambides is a co-founder and partner at Dolphin Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in real estate in emerging markets. Its assets include 13 major leisure-integrated residential resorts and a number of smaller projects.
“We buy the best coastlines,” he said, “and work with the best architects, golf course designers and hotel operators.”
The company built its portfolio from 2006-2008 but stopped investing after the financial collapse. Now Charalambides said it’s time to start investing again.
“Development financing remains scarce for luxury hotel development, especially in emerging markets,” he said. But at the same time, “the global tourism market is growing again. International tourist arrivals are beating expectations.”
Dolphin is in six countries and is looking to expand, he said. The company is looking at Panama, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia. The new projects likely will consist of small hotels with fewer than 150 rooms. Anything larger would make the property too dependent on groups and change the mission of the hotel, he said.
Dolphin’s two current projects illustrate that thinking.
The first is the Aman at Porto Heli, Greece, an area he compared to the Hamptons in New York. Under the guidance of architect Ed Tuttle, the property will have 40 suites and open by the end of 2011.
The second project is the Nikki at Porto Heli, Greece. This beachfront conversion is slated to attract a younger clientele. Before the conversion, there were 160 rooms. When the property opens by the end of 2011, it will have 25 rooms and 60 apartments.
James Erlacher, senior vice president of development for the Americas at Jumeirah Group, confirmed that the big box hotel is no longer the favored style for new super luxury developments.
“There’s a trend toward smaller, more intimate resort environments with indigenous architecture,” he said.
In Dubai, Jumeirah has a 900-room beach property, but he said that’s not what Jumeriah would build in the Americas. He likened new projects to the style of resorts in the Maldives, where the company features small villa-style guest rooms. There are other ways to generate fees besides room count, he said.
“Based on my pipeline and conversations with developers, the trend is toward smaller,” he said. “The box is on the wane.”
He added that luxury properties that have to chase group business faced the most trouble during the downturn.
Erlacher said Jumeirah currently operates about a dozen hotels worldwide. It has about 26 projects in the development pipeline, with an even split between resorts and urban properties, and 30 management agreements are signed and in pre-development. Jumeirah’s focus is on major gateway and resort areas, he said, and each project has to have a residential component.
Jumeirah’s new brand, VENU Hotels, already has five properties in the pipeline and will open first in Shanghai and Dubai. In Buenos Aires, the company has a deal for a polo-themed resort and has another deal to develop an urban property in Panama City as well as a destination resort. In Mexico, he said the company would consider Los Cabos and Riveria Maya.
“We are fully dedicated to the luxury segment,” Erlacher said. “We aspire to be a globally recognized luxury operator.”
Erlacher noted a lack of available luxury projects for residential in the Americas, and the lack of financing will hold supply in check. The environment is good for current operators, he said, but Jumeirah is looking for areas for growth.
In Latin America, Erlacher noted the desirable markets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. The latter, he noted, has “no significant luxury supply” but a lot of wealth.
The challenge for luxury development in Brazil, as well as Colombia and other South American countries, is an underdeveloped airlift.
“Respect the time the guest has for the trip,” he said. “This is a challenge in Brazil. The resort market there is going to be a challenge. Be sensitive to what the travel and arrival sequence involves. … It’s easy to get there from Europe. It’s North America that’s the challenge.”
Charalambides said airlift is one of the most crucial factors when considering a new project. Other development factors important to Dolphin include the differentiation and uniqueness of the product; the service, environment, experience and social responsibility; and finally, real estate integration. Dolphin’s projects always combine hotel with residential. Dolphin prefers to buy into virgin areas, he said, but a hotel on its own is risky in a resort location unless the market is developed.
Charalambides and Erlacher discussed their projects with Christopher Froome, vice president of development planning and feasibility for Ritz-Carlton, at the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference.
Ground Breaking Celebrated for the 1,175-room, 46-suite, $520 million Washington Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON and BETHESDA, Md., Nov. 10, 2010 -- Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA) today broke ground on the much-anticipated Washington Marriott Marquis. Joining them for this momentous occasion were Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), city officials, representatives from WCSA's Board of Directors, Quadrangle Development, Capstone Development, Marriott International, Inc. and Destination DC. The ceremony took place on the construction site at Ninth Street and Massachusetts Avenue, directly adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The hotel is scheduled to open in spring 2014. "This is a monumental day for the District," said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. "For some time, we have worked diligently to bring a world-class hotel to the Convention Center, and that will spur development and offer new jobs for District residents. Today's groundbreaking for the new state-of-the-art Marriott Marquis brings approximately 1,600 construction jobs, and when the hotel opens, offers more than 1,000 jobs for District residents in the hospitality industry."
The $520 million, four-star hotel, will be one of only four Marriott Marquis properties in the country. Plans for the hotel include incorporating the historic Samuel Gompers AFL-CIO headquarters, known as the "Plumbers Building," into the property with its own boutique feel.
"This groundbreaking is a huge step for this landmark project and we look forward to working with city officials, our development partners and Marriott International, Inc. to make this hotel a reality," said Gregory A. O'Dell, president and CEO of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority. "The new hotel will serve as the centerpiece of continued economic revitalization of the historic Shaw neighborhood. It will also allow us to maximize the economic impact of the Convention Center and stimulate job growth by creating hundreds of construction and new hospitality jobs."
The 1,175-room, 46-suite Washington Marriott Marquis is designed to reflect its surroundings and compliment the Convention Center. With more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and assembly space, a grand lobby and five separate retail and restaurant outlets on the ground floor, the hotel is also set to be the next great social hub in the city.
Meeting space will include a 30,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, two 10,800-square-foot junior ballrooms, more than 53,000 square feet of Meeting Rooms, an 18,800-square-foot indoor Event Terrace and a 5,200-square-foot Rooftop Terrace.
"Our company began here in Washington, DC more than 80 years ago with a restaurant that my parents opened just up the street from the site of the new Washington Marriott Marquis," said J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, Inc. "I am so proud to have a Washington Marriott Marquis hotel join the network of great Marriott convention hotels around the world, including three other Marriott Marquis properties in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco."
"The groundbreaking of the Washington Marriott Marquis is a big win for DC's meetings and tourism industry. With a major new hotel attached to the convention center, meeting and event planners will find it easier to build large blocks of hotel rooms. The hotel also brings a significant amount of new meeting space, which we can marry with the space at the convention center to maximize its use. Because the hotel will be located in the heart of downtown DC, near shops, restaurants and museums, it will also be a powerful new asset for visitors to our city to enjoy," said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO, Destination DC.
The Washington Marriott Marquis was designed to earn LEED ® Silver (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, registered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The hotel will be one of the largest hotels in the country to earn Silver certification, verifying that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.
The hotel will be developed by Quadrangle Development Corporation and Capstone Development and will be operated by Marriott International. Of the $520 development cost, the District and the Authority are contributing $206 million. The Authority and the District will be paid for the use of their land through a 99-year ground lease.
Designed by Cooper Carry Architects, Atlanta, and TVS Architects, Atlanta, in a joint-venture collaboration, the building features an innovative top-down construction method, with 14 stories above ground and 94 feet below -- nearly as deep as the hotel will be tall -- with most meeting space below grade. To minimize traffic, bus arrival and taxi queuing is planned for the L Street entrance. The loading dock and the truck service are located below grade and off the street.
About the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA)
The Washington Convention and Sports Authority creates economic and community benefits for the District through the attraction and promotion of hospitality, athletic, entertainment and cultural events. The Authority owns and manages the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, an anchor of the District's hospitality and tourism economy that generates over $400 million annually in total economic impact for the city. The Authority also owns and manages the Stadium-Armory campus, which includes Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, the DC Armory and the surrounding Festival Grounds, and serves as the owner and landlord for Nationals Park. For more information, please visit www.wcsa.com.
Kimpton Reaches 50-Hotel Mark
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has achieved 50 hotels in its portfolio with the opening of Eventi in New York City.
Eventi is the company's fourth hotel in New York and is located in the Chelsea district. Designed by Colum McCartan, the property features 292 guestrooms with custom-made furnishings. Eventi's public areas, including an outdoor plaza, a spa and a multi-level restaurant will open later this year.
Andaz To Add Three
CHICAGO–Hyatt Hotels Corp. unveiled plans to add three hotels in international markets to its growing Andaz lifestyle brand.
The hotels will be located in Sanya Sunny Bay, China; Delhi, India; and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos.
With the four Andaz properties already open and others previously announced, the brand will have 11 hotels open by 2014.
What to Serve With the World Cup
Cape Town's burgeoning restaurant scene reflects city's many cultures
People come to Cape Town for its fine beaches and waterfront—they have since the 1600s, when the Dutch established it as a watering stopover for ships trading with the East. They come for the sports: The city will hold eight World Cup matches this June. They come for the history, to see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent most of his imprisonment.
But few visitors come for the food.
Daniela Bonanno, who works here for New York-based custom-vacation company Absolute Travel, thinks that may change. A spurt of high-caliber restaurants has transformed the dining scene, she says. Where the top places once offered French cooking, often heavy and meat-based, now chefs are training abroad, offering a wide variety of international influences while keeping ingredients local.
As in New York, Vancouver and London, the dining landscape represents a confetti of global cuisines reflecting the many cultures of Cape Town's almost three million people. Given the oceanfront setting, seafood plays a big role in menus, as do local meats such as ostrich, karoo lamb and springbok, an antelope variety that's the national animal. And, peri-peri, a piquant red chili, is also common as a side sauce or flavor addition.
Peak tourist season is during South Africa's summer from November through March, and although temperatures usually don't exceed the mid-80s, there can be some exceptionally hot days, especially in January. The slow season is the winter months of May through August. The average daytime temperature is mild at around 55 degrees, but July and August are the height of rainy season where many days can be wet and windy. Cape Town doesn't get big crowds during September, October, March and April, and the sunny days with temperatures in the 60s make these ideal visiting months.
Several weeks ago—Cape Town's fall—my husband and I tried five restaurants, many of them opened in the past few years, that Capetonians said would give us an idea of their hometown's cuisine.
This place in the Camps Bay area, a chic South Beach equivalent full of trendy eateries and bars, got its start as a fish store in Johannesburg. "Customers began asking if the store could cook the fish they picked," says owner Skippy Shaked. Diners still get to select their fish from a large case—usually including several prawn types such as the prized tiger, crayfish, the South African version of lobster, and filets of the codlike kinglip and Cape salmon from the restaurant's own fisheries. The fish is grilled only with a touch of fish spice, and served with sauces including peri-peri and sweet chili apricot on a bed of fries and Asian style stir-fried vegetables. Make sure to see the sunset.
Gordon Ramsay, the feisty task-master of reality-television show Hell's Kitchen, runs this year-old spot at the One&Only hotel. Each of the seven restaurants of this name around the world has a distinct menu—including, in Cape Town, Namibian oysters, Mozambican langoustines and grilled eland, another South African antelope. The towering space also has an open pastry kitchen turning out desserts such as malva pudding, a kind of caramelized cake dating back to the days of Dutch rule. The 5,000-bottle cellar claims to be one of the largest in the country—heavy on South African wines, of course.
After a decade in Australia's Blue Mountains, Cyrillia Deslandes returned home to South Africa and brought along her husband, Laurent, from France's Loire Valley, as chef. In late 2007, the duo opened this restaurant. Mr. Deslandes applies French techniques to local ingredients. While some dishes, like the braised farm pig trotter, are always available, a half-dozen different starters and four entrees are added each day, usually new recipes. The white mussels in a beurre-blanc sauce from Saldanha Bay on South Africa's west coast are so meaty they could be mistaken for scallops. A seared steak comes from a farm in the north, and a Provençal fish soup is rich with chunks of local crustaceans. Mr. Deslandes also regularly gives springbok filet, veal shoulder and karoo lamb stew a French treatment.
In the 19th century, Indians were brought to South Africa to work as indentured servants, and today they're one of the country's prominent ethnic groups. There are four Bukhara restaurants throughout South Africa; we visited the original in Cape Town's Central Business District, which has a long glass-walled kitchen and offers all the standard North Indian dishes. Many Indian eateries don't do beef justice since it's forbidden in Hinduism, but here the beef pudina marinated in mint uses South African beef, often likened in quality to the highly regarded Argentine meat. A tandoori chicken was free of the pasty orange flavor too often common in this dish.
THE GRAND CAFE & BEACH-
In an airy converted beachfront warehouse overlooking Table Bay, the restaurant's seating spills out onto a large terrace and the beach itself. A chic set packs it every night. Owner Sue Main is a globetrotter and her menu reflects that: The prawn tempura is via Japan, the 3-foot-long crispy pizzas topped with thin slices of local parma ham are inspired by Italy, Steak béarnaise is from Paris, and the Waldorf salad comes from the States. As for the crayfish sandwich—Cape Town's answer to the New England lobster roll—Ms. Main cuts the meat into small pieces (it's almost always served whole), mixes it with homemade mayonnaise and tucks it into a soft bun.
Flying through Johannesburg is the only way to reach Cape Town from the U.S. without a stopover in Europe. Daily nonstop flights to Johannesburg include South African Airways from New York's JFK (the return flight stops in Dakar) and Delta Air Lines from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. From Johannesburg, there's frequent service to Cape Town; the flight lasts about two hours.
Where to Stay:
One&Only Cape Town—This 131-room, supremely luxurious hotel with a contemporary style opened last year just off the waterfront. Rates per night start at 6,000 rand ($815). www.oneandonlyresorts.com Cape Grace—The 120-room grand dame of Cape Town's luxury accommodations, on the waterfront and decorated in a traditional Cape Malay style, was refashioned in December 2008. Rates start at $550. www.capegrace.com . De Waterkant Village—Amid cobblestone streets in a historic neighborhood between the waterfront and center area, this collection of self-service cottages, apartments and bed and breakfast style rooms has affordable, well-appointed accommodations. www.dewaterkant.com . Rates start at 950 rand.
The Five Restaurants: Details
Codfather, 37 The Drive, Camps Bay, 021-438-0782, about $50 a person. The Grand Café & Beach, Haul Road, off Beach Road, Granger Bay, www.thegrand.co.za, 021-425-0551, about $35 a person with a glass of wine. Maze, One&Only Cape Town, Dock Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, 021-431-5222, about $40 a person with a glass of wine. Bizerca Bistro, Jetty Street, Foreshore, www.bizerca.com, 021-418-0001, about $35 for two-course meal with a glass of wine. Bukhara, 33 Church Street, www.bukhara.com, 021-424-0000, about $30 a person.
— Shivani Vora is a writer based in New York.
Trump SoHo Debuts
NEW YORK—The Sapir Organization and the Bayrock Group will unveil their 46-story Trump SoHo condo-hotel here tomorrow.
Trump International Hotels helped develop and will manage the hotel, which features a restaurant and lounge, full-service spa, and 12,000 square feet of meeting space.
Reportedly, only 30% of the condo units have gone to contract due to the difficult economy and financing environment.
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