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History, Innovation, and Style: Hill Helps European Hosts Expand and Update Destination Hotels

PricewaterhouseCoopers, a leading global financial advisory firm, is unequivocal in its most recent outlook for the European hospitality market: “European cities saw unprecedented hotel performance in 2017. Almost all of the cities in our latest forecast are expected to see further growth through 2019.” Their report on continental hospitality trends adds cities such as Prague, Milan, Paris, Geneva, Rome, and Berlin among their strongest performers, with overall growth expected to average about 4% in the coming year. Not coincidentally, Hill International is also leveraging its own hospitality expertise to assist our hospitality clients as they expand and upgrade their European lodgings and destinations. In Prague, Athens, and the coast of Spain, Hill is helping to deliver several landmark hotel and resort projects. Each project, in its own way, is iconic and reflective of larger trends in tourism and guest amenities. Hill is also taking advantage of the personal expertise of Hospitality Director Ivan Calvino Santamaria. Highlights of Mr. Calvino’s hospitality experience include the Ritz Madrid in Spain, St. Regis Astana in Kazakhstan, and the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona, Spain. Mr. Calvino is involved in the early and, arguably, most critical phase of Hill’s European hospitality projects, from inception to breaking ground, as well as regular followups throughout the project life-cycle. “Luxury hospitality projects require a specific mindset and approach,” says Mr. Calvino. “The client’s vision for the project must be realized in detail, local stakeholder concerns must be addressed, and the guest experience has to be foremost in mind at all times. This can make these projects some of the most challenging undertakings, but it can also make them some of the most rewarding.”

Prague Marriott Hill is providing construction management services for Inafy Estates’s renovation and expansion of the Prague Marriott Hotel. As recently announced, Hill also opened a new office in the same building. The renovation project will be delivered in phases, with much of the hotel remaining in operation throughout construction. Hill Vice President & Managing Director, Western Europe, Alex Ramos explains, “The Marriott building occupies an entire block, with retail shops and business offices in addition to the hotel.” The project will utilize current vacant space in the building to create more than 100 additional hotel rooms to meet demand, as well as upgrade front of house areas, including the main lobby, reception, and restaurant and bar, as well as adding new lift cores. “As a result of the renovation and increased room capacity, there has been a domino effect where upgrades are also needed to back of house areas, such as the kitchen, executive offices, and administrative offices which is a common implied requirement in these types of interventions,” said Ramos. Utilizing best management practices developed during decades of providing construction management services to hospitality clients throughout Europe and the world, Hill scheduled and phased all work to occur while the hotel remains in operation. “An important driver is to limit disruption to the hotel and the occupied offices. This is where having a good delivery team becomes very important; with expert communication and planning, we believe we are able to find the right balance of minimal disruption while still getting the work done,” said Mr. Ramos. Concluded Mr. Ramos, “This is a landmark project for a blue chip, international client in a new market for Hill. In many ways, the project is the perfect opportunity to showcase our capabilities and skills.”

Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens Hill is enjoying strong growth in hospitality projects in Greece, among them the Grand Hyatt in Athens, where the company is providing project management support services to the investor team, and for the iconic Astir Palace. The re-development of Astir Palace is a hospitality project of both global and national significance, representing an internationally known destination and a Grecian landmark. Astir Palace is an iconic resort on the Athenian Riviera, and has long been favored by elite international and Greek clientele. Located 16 miles south of Athens along a pristine shoreline of the Aegean coast, the new hotel brings Four Seasons’ signature service to Greece for the first time. Stretching across 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine-dotted and scenic landscaped gardens, the peninsula offers distinct natural beauty and is subject to rigid zoning and environmental conditions. The investor’s vision for the project was to respect Astir’s history and identity, while elevating it to contemporary standards and transforming it into a genuine world-class lifestyle destination. More than €100 million was invested into refurbishing and upgrading the resort’s facilities alone. Features will include approximately 300 rooms, suites, and luxury bungalows; spa and recreational facilities; state-of-the-art conference and event spaces; infinity pools; beaches; a unique beachfront promenade; and more. The concept draws heavily on inspiration from the beauty of the surrounding environment and local culture, embodying a contemporary yet timeless luxury design aesthetic with attention to detail, while establishing a connection to the property’s history. Emmanouil Sigalas, Hill’s Vice President and Managing Director, Southern Europe, explains, “The project was executed during a time of turbulence for Greece, and our team’s vision was to bring this major foreign direct investment to fruition successfully. “Investments like the Astir project help trigger the economy, create jobs, and set a precedent for attracting additional investments into the country.

The re-development of Astir provided several benefits for the Greek economy in general and the local community in particular. These included preservation of a landmark asset and upgrading of its operation, creation of new and sustainable jobs, opportunities for local suppliers, the program of the investors, and revenues for the State and local municipality.” In terms of innovation, the construction techniques, equipment, and material used were based on international best practices and the high standards of Four Seasons. “The project was a first of-its-kind locally in terms of the high hospitality standards designed, procured, and constructed, and arguably the first-of its-kind in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. In essence, the project’s value chain was created by implementing a global project on a local scale, and this experience will now transfer to other projects in Greece,” says Mr. Sigalas. “Importantly, through the Astir project, we also aspired to signal a change in mentality by adopting fundamental principles to guide similar projects in Greece going forward: We believed in teamwork, transparency, and ethics. Through the investment, jobs were created, we amalgamated senior wisdom with new blood, and Greek staff from abroad repatriated. Despite challenges and occasional setbacks, we all worked steadfastly to go the extra mile for Astir and the project.” The Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens opened on March 29, 2019.

Six Senses Hotel, Ibiza, Spain One of the most ambitious and challenging European hospitality projects Hill is currently managing is the Six Senses Ibiza in Spain. Located on the northern side of Ibiza Island along Cala Xarraca Bay on a 32,000 SM site, this destination is a new addition to the portfolio of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas. The resort includes 134 guest accommodations including fully appointed Townhouse Suites, Deluxe Pool Suites with private decks, Beach Cave Suites, branded villas, and two, sixbedroom Mansions. Scheduled to open for the 2020 summer season, the Hill team is managing an aggressive schedule and complex phasing. “Core and shell works are underway on-site, while design is nearing completion,” explains Marián Prieto, Vice President and General Manager in Hill’s Spain office. “Given the vision of Six Senses for the project, unsurprisingly multiple design and consulting teams from around the world are involved. This necessitates a huge effort in orchestrating and managing the myriad of stakeholders, while also performing our construction management supervision on site within the allowed work windows.” Beyond the design phase, Hill is providing executive project management services across the entire lifecycle. “This will be Six Senses’ first resort, spa, and residential project in Ibiza, and their third in Europe,” says Ms. Prieto. “They intend this project to be a benchmark in innovative design, unique entertainment offerings, and eclectic dining experiences, all of which our team understands and is very familiar with from our other hospitality assignments.” Ms. Prieto adds that the project is also designed to focus on wellness, sustainability, and community. Says Mr. Calvino, “All of these projects exemplify the market growth PricewaterhouseCoopers and others see in the European tourism market. A combination of history, innovation, and style is drawing travelers from around the world to Europe’s cities and resorts, and this combination is reflected in each of Hill’s hotel projects.”