NYC hotels getting pricey and unusual

Minimalist stylings at NYC's new Andaz Fifth Avenue hotel

Like many frequent travelers, I’ve spent plenty of nights in New York City hotels over the years. When looking for a place to stay, I nearly always look for two key words: brand new.

I like new hotels for a couple of reasons: First, since I’m in the travel biz, I’m eager to see and experience the latest trends in hospitality. Second, since hotel rooms in Manhattan are nearly always occupied, they get worn out quickly. A brand new hotel will have little evidence that hundreds of others have spent the night in my room before I did. (Note: If you like new hotels, you’ve got to be somewhat forgiving when it comes to service—it takes a while for hotel staff to grow out of the “green” stage.)

Good news: When it comes to “brand new” in NYC, there’s plenty to choose from– this year alone, 33 new hotels will open, adding some 7,500 rooms to the market. Despite the increase in capacity, average rates in New York are climbing—up 12 percent in September year-over-year to an average $281 per night, according to STR Global

Last month I stopped by New York on my way back from London and checked out one of the more noteworthy newbies:  The Andaz – Fifth Avenue.

Hyatt has always been a reliably classy brand. But with its new Andaz boutique-style brand, it’s moved out of that cozy comfort zone and onto the cutting edge.

First off, the hotel is so new that the cab driver could not find it—exterior signage was minimal, and despite the hotel’s name, the front door is on 41st Street.

Entrance to Andaz Fifth Avenue is on 41st St.

When I walked in the lobby with my bags, there was no front desk. Instead, one of several cheerful black-clad “hosts” greeted me, tablet PC in hand. She asked me to have a seat at a bar stool and offered me a glass of complimentary wine or bottled water while she took my credit card info and checked me in.

Check in via tablet PC. No front desk

Then we were both off to my superior king room—yes, an escort to your room is part of the check in.

The room had several unusual touches that I’ve rarely seen before:

>Snacks, sodas and juices from the mini-bar are free.

>Free high-speed internet (unusual for an upscale hotel)

>A porcelain foot bath on the floor of the oversize shower stall. My host explained that it’s for feet that get weary and/or dirty after a day spent pounding the Big Apple’s gritty sidewalks. A nice touch considering there’s no tub in the bathroom.

A foot bath for weary feet

>Twelve-foot ceilings and expansive street views through windows that open (important for me). If your room is on the Fifth Ave side, you can peer over at the New York Public Library.

>Minimalism to the max: Those high ceilings make for a lot of blank wall space: the only wall adornment is a 42” HDTV. The desk is a long thin wooden table topped with only a phone. The all-white bed floats in the middle like a big marshmallow.

A spartan desk area with plenty of room to spread out

>Despite the room’s large size, there was no closet. Instead, clothes are stored in a chrome and glass armoire-ish box.

Glass and chrome "closet"

Finally, in another unusual twist, as I checked out, the host presented me with a white lacquer box, opened it, and asked me to chose a parting gift—a small gourmet brownie, small hand sanitizer, a tin of mints, a lollipop, or lip balm.

A parting gift at check out

Rates in November run from $435 to $535 a night. (Disclosure: The hotel comped my room for one night.)

Right now, there are Andaz hotels in NYC (Fifth Ave and Wall St), London, West Hollywood, and San Diego with several more in the pipeline.

Two other noteworthy newbies that I’ll be on the lookout for next time I’m in NYC: The InterContinental Times Square and the Chatwal.

For a list a ALL the brand new hotels opening in NYC this year, see the  Hotel Development Fact Sheet PDF

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