No matter how spectacular, hotels will begin to look worn over time if they aren’t refreshed. And nobody wants to stay at an outdated or tired-looking property.
“Hotels are typically renovated or redesigned in a general 8-to-12-year cycle,” says Rike Erdbrink, General Manager of the Park Hyatt Chicago. “Touchups happen every few years to keep up with technology trends, and guest accommodations like furniture or bedding are updated to ensure those details remain fresh with the times.”
When a hotel undergoes a renovation, a decision has to be made whether to keep the property open and do construction one section at a time or close entirely and undergo a significant overall.
In the case of the Park Hyatt Chicago, which opened in 1980 as the first-ever Park Hyatt hotel, the property closed completely during its five-month renovation. “The hotel underwent a massive transformation that required regular operations to cease, in the interest of guest safety,” says Erdbrink. “It may not necessarily be ‘better’ than renovating while still operating regularly, but our loyal guests trusted our decision, and I think it paid off.” Changes include modernizing the hotel’s guestrooms and suites, lobby, spa, the Library, and updates to the signature restaurant, NoMI. “For this renovation project, we focused on lightening and brightening the hotel’s interiors to create a more modern space,” she says.
The Right Timing
Closing a hotel for five months is never ideal, but sometimes the timing isn’t so bad. Erdbrink explains: “In the case of our hotel, we came upon a best-case scenario. These renovations take up to five years in advance to execute, sometimes more. To have that conversation begin so early on and to take place during Chicago’s slow season in the middle of a pandemic was truly a silver lining.”
For employees, it wasn’t a bad deal either. Hyatt allowed certain team members to work on different projects and even work at other hotels in the country during the closure of the Chicago property. “It all landed quite nicely,” says Erdbrink.
Attracting New Travelers as Well as Repeat Visitors
The fear of closing a hotel is that travelers might go elsewhere, so the goal is to attract new travelers while retaining former ones. Says Erdbrink: “Travelers these days are vying for something new and something that is ‘now.’ Coming off the height of the pandemic, guests want to feel safe, first and foremost, and to have an experience that transforms their worldview. We unveiled things like a new guest room design, something that reflects the hotel’s natural surroundings but also the progressive nature of our great city, Chicago. We are building a refreshed art collection that is more diverse and provocative. We want our future guests to feel like we are moving in the right direction since we’ve reopened and that we are offering a product that is unique, worldly, and inclusive.”
Travel habits and what people are looking for in a hotel also change over time. Erdbrink notes, “Personal routines have changed over the last few years. Travelers are looking for more personal space and thoughtful amenities. With that, we have seen an increase in the demand of suite bookings versus our standard guest room. We offer suites like our Wellbeing Suite at Park Hyatt Chicago, where there is a room-ready TONAL fitness system and an opportunity for a Peloton bike; amenities like sleep oils, body butter, and a sound machine are placed in the room alongside nutritional superfoods and cold press juices. The design and color of the room is serene but also reflects the surrounding parks and Lake Michigan. It’s a balancing act of travels being personalized but also wanting to be worldly.”
How the Destination Affects the Hotel
Chicago is constantly growing, expanding and changing. New restaurants, attractions, and theater performances are continually being unveiled. It is not a city that sits on its laurels. “The city of Chicago offers, if not demands, growth. It’s a city that has so much to offer,” says Erdbrink. Chicago attracts travelers from countries scattered across the globe—it’s a world-class destination.
The Park Hyatt Chicago is the flagship Park Hyatt in the brand. It literally is where it all began. “This specific hotel lead to the formation of the Park Hyatt brand. It was created to be that extension of the home. We have spaces called the Library, the Lounge, the Garden, the Kitchen, even. Chicago is exemplified in this hotel. With this reimagining, we hope that guests will pick up on our efforts to bring the outside in– our tagline is ‘Where the World sees Chicago, and Chicago sees the World’ – it’s all in our details. From selecting art from Chicago-born artists, hand picking photographs from the archives of the hotel that are now on display in guest rooms, to simply showcasing green botanical accents in every room to reflect the beautiful parks and Lake Michigan that frame our hotel.”
The hotel sits at one of the most iconic addresses in the city in the heart of the Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. There’s plenty to explore nearby including Lake Michigan, historic Water Tower Park, luxury shopping, and the proximity to iconic art museums like the MCA and Art Institute.