Third-generation hotelier Pike takes on the R Hotel
The green US$6.5 million multistorey edifice in New Kingston was much talked about during its construction when speculation was rife about its intended use.
Now, two years after its initially slated opening, the 48-room R Hotel, located on Renfrew Road, is up and running as the capital city’s first extended-stay apartment hotel, or serviced apartments.
There, guests can stay for one night or for months, with trips to restaurants, movie theatres, recording studios or stage shows built into their package.
“Because of our sheer size, we can manage guests individually. Their itinerary is based on what they want, and so prices vary based on what they want to do,” said General Manager Alexander Pike in an interview with the Financial Gleaner at the boutique hotel.
The R had a soft opening on December 10, with a formal launch set for mid-March.
Most of the accommodations are self-contained single rooms with a kitchenette and laundry area. Occupancy is said to be now running at 50 per cent. With four room rate categories, basic rooms are offered in the introductory period for US$156 per night.
At the top end, two-bedroom suites with a larger kitchen, living room, dining room and balcony situated at the top of the eight-floor high rise, are to be rented for US$450 a night. There are add-ons based on what concierge services guests opt for.
Seven floors are now in business, while a eighth floor for suites, the Redbones bar and restaurant, a performing stage and swimming pool are still undergoing finishing touches. Pike chalks up the delay to “trying to get as close to perfection as possible”.
Last-minute changes to some original features to build out the concierge hotel concept were said to be responsible for the hotel missing its initial 2017 start-up.
Already, the property, with majority ownership by architect Evan Williams and reggae promoter Joe Bogdanovich of Downsound Entertainment, has partnered with Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records, Chillin, and Broken Plate restaurants, Café Blue, the Xamayca carnival band, Reggae Sumfest and Downsound Records for R Hotel guests to experience their services.
Some Kingston spas are also on the list of off-property amenities to be preapproved and enlisted for referral.
Pike, whose hospitality background includes a 12-year stint with Sandals Resorts International, is a third-generation hotelier, whose mother, community tourism consultant, Diana McIntyre Pike, operated the Astra Country Inn in Mandeville, Manchester. His grandmother, Ceceline McIntyre, OD, started Hendon House, an 18th-century guest house in Savanna-la-Mar and later operated the Mandeville Hotel and a villa in Negril.
With these community tourism credentials, Pike says that under his watch, R Hotel will not be one of those properties pointing its guests to a brochure stand as a way of seeing and experiencing city Kingston.
Kazam Chauffeur Service has been selected as R Hotel’s ground transport and tour partner.
“We are promoting the things that locals … Kingstonians, want to do. Our guests will get to understand what our lifestyle is like in Kingston. We take them to shop at Bridget Sandals. We take them to Sovereign Centre to the movies. Our staff are trained to know what’s out there and to recommend places to enhance guest experience,” Pike said.
Apartment hotels, catering largely to business travellers, are emerging as a new business opportunity.
In addition to the R Hotel apartments, which are being sold to investors but managed centrally, the Hussey family, owners of the Terra Nova Hotel at Waterloo Road, recently announced their planned high-rise luxury condominiums of investor-owned suites, The Residences, to be managed for rental by the hotel.
The “indicative prices” for the Terra Nova condos are said to range from US$233,000 to US$470,000. The R Hotel units were listed two years ago at between US$135,000 and US$330,000.
Excited about R
Pike says he is excited about R Hotel adding value and distinguishing itself from the competition, especially when more rooms come on stream in Kington from the Terra Nova condos, the new AC Marriott being built at Lady Musgrave Road by Sandals Resorts, as well as Kevin Hendrickson’s newest hotel acquisition at 77 Knutsford Boulevard, which is now under renovation.
At the R, amenities include a gym, art gallery, 60-person conference room and an eight-seat board room. Already, the venue has been hosting business events, including press conferences and product launches. It is served by a staff of 40.
Speaking about the outlook for business, Pike said the property was fully booked for March, when many of its guests will be attending the Buju Banton concert. It is fully booked, too, for Jamaica Carnival in April.
“Since we opened, each month is better than the previous one. Kingston is busy. Business is booming when it comes on to hotels in Kingston,” Pike said.
The hotel is projected to turn a profit on the initial capital outlay by 2020 and already the R Hotel owners are said to be scouting for expansion opportunities for the brand, especially in Montego Bay.
Pike says the bulk of the property’s guests include a mix of business and leisure travellers out of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, with about 30 per cent of the hotel’s business so far being Jamaicans living overseas. It also has Chinese guests visiting for sightseeing.
“We are targeting mostly the East Coast of the US, where most of the business comes from, especially our business travellers,” the GM said.
The R has been doing direct marketing to convince local businesses to recommend it as the preferred hotel for their business counterparts travelling to Kingston. The hotel’s marketing thrust has been heavily digital through Google ads, its website, and with Internet-based travel agents such as Booking.com and Expedia.