Executive board rooms, expansive meeting space, charming patios, locally-sourced food, stunning artwork and a feeling that is uniquely Northern Arizona greet tourists, business travelers, families and locals as Flagstaff’s mainstay properties up their game.
Little America; Lots of Luxury
At Little America, it is a combination of contemporary elegance and warm comfort – the kind of feeling you would get at your aunt’s house if she lived in a massive, lodge-like mansion on 500 acres of manicured lawn, adorned in evergreens.
“There’s a bit of a ‘wow’ factor when you enter the lobby,” said Senior Sales Manager Ryan Kennedy.
That “wow” starts with two large Raku ceramic pieces created by internationally known Sedona artist Jim Romberg. There is just enough turquoise and copper in the art to let you know you are in Arizona. And sure, there’s lighter, brighter carpet, new and more windows, a beautiful wood ceiling, a fabulous chandelier dripping with light, but there’s also desert agate and calcite slab custom coffee tables, hand-forged wrought iron, burnished pewter wall sculptures, onyx bowls, original oils and hand painted lithography etchings.
Every touch, from the registration counter lamps to the wall sconces, has a story and a one-of-a-kind presence. And then there is the live edge on all things wooden. From the furniture in the lobby to the panels on the fireplace to the tables in the Silver Pine restaurant, big leaf western maple is beautifully showcased with its one rough edge to let you know it is unique and grown, harvested, designed and crafted for your use and enjoyment.
There is also a spiritual element. The gem in the fireplace wall is Chrysocolla, a stone of peace known for its power to relax emotions such as guilt, fear and nervous tension. It dates back to the Greek culture of 315 B.C., where it was thought to be able to shield the mind during times of negotiation. However, Native Americans recognized it for its ability to strengthen resistance and promote calmness. This particular stone comes from a copper mine in Morenci and cut specifically for Little America.
Kennedy points out the re-configured boutique style gift shop is truly a “gift” shop. “It’s a place you find gifts,” he said. There is handcrafted Native America jewelry and also Swarovski Crystal.
Local businesses and organizations may be thrilled to learn the property has expanded from 10,000 square feet to 13,500 square feet in ballrooms and meeting space. “We can now accommodate larger groups that we haven’t been able to before,” said Kennedy.
Each meeting space has its own upgraded personality. The light turquoise and wood designer touches offer a clean, modern and sophisticated flair. The new executive boardroom is first class in every way, with leather captain’s chairs, a 75-inch monitor, screens that descend from the ceiling with the touch of a button and blotters at every seat.
The Silver Pine restaurant feels open, as the ceiling has been lifted and vaulted to a 20-foot height. It is comfortably rustic with a must-see backlit bar and modern wall fireplace with a flame that changes colors. “We’ve added local indigenous spirits and craft beers brewed in Flagstaff,” said Kennedy.
The new patio will pull you outdoors with its focal point fountain and three fire features. Long-time residents will be happy to know some of Little America’s most popular menu items are not going anywhere – you can still order a hot turkey dinner, but in addition, the chef is including buffalo short ribs, fry bread and more farmers market produce with local, fresh ingredients along with seasonal offerings. The happy hour menu offers more trendy, small plated items.
“Our company prides itself on paying attention to every detail in its luxury hotels,” said Kennedy. “It’s Flagstaff’s turn for a remodel and we want to show the community what we’ve done.”
Hilton Hitting its Mark
Meanwhile, Flagstaff’s other full-service resort property, the Doubletree by Hilton, is serving up warm chocolate chip cookies, a new brand and a refreshed look.
“Our competitors have done extensive renovations, too. We want to stay competitive,” said General Manager Mike Rock. “Back when the property was first built, we were a leader in the market. In the last few years, we weren’t achieving our full potential.”
The decision to transition from Radisson (Woodlands) to Hilton in 2014 is proving to be a lucrative business move. “The Hilton brand is much stronger. Fifty percent or more of our guests are Hilton Honors members. At the Radisson Woodlands, only 10 percent of its guests were in its membership program.”
Rock explains a number of Flagstaff’s large employers, like W. L. Gore & Associates and Nestlé Purina, are loyal to the Hilton brand and use the property throughout the year. “We’ve had a record-breaking year since converting to Hilton, we’re up 55-58 percent in occupancy.”
Renovations include extensive exterior work with a new roof, stucco and paint. Inside the large glass doors, longtime Flagstaff residents will notice the lobby and bar area have been opened up, allowing for more flow and an inviting fireplace for guests to enjoy.
“It’s more contemporary, up-to-date and relaxing,” said Rock. “The bar business has really done well and the fireplace brings people out of their rooms.”
“The Hilton experience is to make travelers feel at home again,” said Sales Director Clairese Eckman. “The little things mean everything and we want to provide an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and taken care of. When we hand them a cookie after a day of travel, we want them to think, ‘Okay, I can relax now.’”
A new stylish, hand-laid rock wall leads guests to the elevators and local business people to the 6,900-square-feet of refreshed ballrooms and flexible meeting space. All with new carpet, wall coverings and lamps – Eckman says they are able to accommodate groups of up to 600 people.
Already popular for a holiday party space, she expects the demand to increase. “We’re booking for the holidays now and offering three percent back on everything groups spend if they book before the end of September.”
The Sakura Restaurant, known for its sushi, teppanyaki and tableside showmanship, will remain the same with some minor upgrades, but Rock says the Woodlands Café will be all new, with a more organic menu and design changes expected to be completed next year. “Our goal is to drive in more local business. We want to reach out to the locals with a nice, fun atmosphere where they want to come eat. Sakura does that.”
The property’s 183 rooms, including 15 junior suites, are being renovated as well, in classic earth tones. New artwork displays stunning photography of Northern Arizona attractions like Lake Powell, Sedona, the ponderosa pine forest and the Grand Canyon.
Eckman says Flagstaff is a year-round tourism destination now. She credits Arizona Snowbowl and the North Pole Experience for much of the winter business.
“Guests know, when you’re in a Hilton property, it’s luxurious. You know you’re getting a good product,” added Rock.
When travelers are in this Flagstaff Hilton property, they have also taken note they are receiving exceptional service. In a recent Hilton awards ceremony, the property received six awards for having the highest service marks in Arizona from satisfaction surveys, and also the highest revenue growth.
“It’s very interesting: highest service while achieving the highest growth. Typically, it’s one or the other,” said Rock. “We’re going to have to set the bar higher for next year!”
Drury Delivers Renovation, Customer Care
Across Milton Road, in the center of town, the Drury Inn is fresh off a major renovation of its own, including the hotel’s 160 guest rooms, meeting rooms, lobby and breakfast/happy hour spaces.
“We definitely budgeted up,” said General Manager B.J. Preston, who arrived at the property in December to start the project. “We were expecting an increase (in occupancy) of five percent for the year. So far we’re up 6.5 percent over last year. I’m happy with the market. So many people are coming to Flag, I don’t think anyone [hotel] is going to be stealing from anybody. We’re not slowing down. Northern Arizona University is growing and the city will grow around it. I don’t think there’s a bad thing you can say about Flagstaff right now. Business is very positive and moving forward. The city has everything it needs going for it.”
Preston says the Drury is a very popular upper, midscale limited-service hotel. The Flagstaff property is particularly busy with traveling college sports teams and other NAU business. Recently, the company received its 11th J.D. Power Customer Champions award for exceptional service, proving it is staying true to the unofficial Drury Inn motto: “Take care of the customer, take care of the customer, take care of the customer, and run the hotel later.”
“As busy as we stay, we needed to freshen things up,” said Preston. “The couches and carpet get worn out and need to be replaced every six to 10 years, typically.”
The property received new carpet, wallpaper and paint. Other noticeable changes include a more open, airy gathering space on the first and second floors.
“The style is now contemporary. It was very heavy with leather chairs and dark mahogany, like a men’s cigar lounge,” said Preston. “Now, it’s softer, with vibrant colors.”
Also, the patio space has been enlarged, where guests can spill out onto during the breakfast buffet or evening reception.
The artwork is new, too. It features photography of local scenery, which Preston says is noticed more than you would think.
“I see Flagstaff growing so fast,” he said. “There’s a lot of money being put into this city right now and it’s a wonderful time to be a part of it.”
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN