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Virgin has said the area around Spaceport America outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico--where they plan on putting their sky rockets in flight--is in need of a luxury hotel. The smaller ones already present just aren't up to snuff. After all, their passengers are folks who have forked over $200,000 for the ride to space and will need some luxury accommodations before and after their journey to the final frontier.
But instead of building their own Virgin Galactic-branded hotel, Virgin is looking to partner with third parties to build the luxury digs. Dear Richard Branson, et. al., Please don't build a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons near the spaceport. Please.
Not much else has been confirmed about the hotel except that it will be located halfway between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences. But hotels in the area, who are frequented by hot springs lovers, needn't get too worried. Virgin Galactic won't be blasting off until sometime in 2013.
UPDATE: a tipster in the know says that although the spaceport is in the works, the first Virgin Hotel will, as planned, still open "in a major US city". They tell us to expect an official announcement "within 45 days".
We've spent the past few months racking our brains trying to guess which city will get the first Virgin Hotel treatment, and while we suspected San Francisco, we never thought that it'd be in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. But, according to The Independent, Richard Branson is looking to begin with a property overlooking the still-under-construction Virgin Galactic Spaceport headquarters.
We just waded through a tough-to-chew article on the forecast for the hotel industry in the New York Times to find the answer to something we've been dying to know--how much longer until we sleep inside a Virgin Hotel?
The answer: 12 to 18 months.
That timeline is not quite what we were hoping for but at least we can start counting the days. And we suspect that in a short while we'll at least know where this very first Virgin Hotel will open. (Hint, Hint.)
Right now, Virgin has only stated that they will open about 25 Virgin Hotels in major cities across the world but the U.S. will probably get first dibs. (We think San Fran might be the very first Virgin Hotel.)
But there's something else we're concerned about.
The hotels will be inspired by the cool Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses aka airport lounges and according to Sir Richard Branson, they will be "the hippest most comfortable new hotel in any city. Anyone's who anybody will know to go there."
Even better for us Yanks, Virgin Hotels has their eyes set on Virginizing North America first instead of the UK. The list of cities put forth are the following:
In chatting mid-flight with Sir Richard Branson back in June, we only had thing on our mind--When will Virgin Hotels open? And the answer he gave us had us tingling for a few days after we landed even if it was rather vague. He said then that Virgin was "not many months away from making an announcement" regarding their first hotel.
There's a cheeky Do Not Disturb sign anchoring the page ("Opportunity knocking", "Shall we go back to your place?", etc) but most of the information is aimed at developers who want to partner with Virgin for a hotel brand. Still, we do learn a little bit about Virgin Hotels' philosophy and more importantly, their locations.
Sir Richard Branson. Can anyone guess the DeGrassi High alum sleeping behind him?
Yesterday we were fortunate to grab some time with Sir Richard Branson at his first class seat on the launch party flight for Virgin America's new Toronto route.
And while we could have asked Branson what a typical day is like for him at his Necker Island retreat or if he fancies Dita Von Teese, we had our mind on other sexier things--like Virgin Hotels and when we might expect them to open.
Branson told us they are "not many months away from making an announcement" regarding Virgin Hotels (an opening announcement that is.) He says they have the resources and the concept which is somewhat under wraps but he did confirm it would be very much a translation of the airline experience. And remember, Virgin Hotels is very much an urban brand that will only open in cities.
There's some accommodation opening up in Queensland that most of us won't be able to visit--unless you're one of the 35,000 employees of Richard Branson's Virgin mega-empire.
After buying Makepeace Island about five years back, Branson and his co-owners have been lovingly getting it fixed up as a place for Virgin employees and their families and friends to vacation. They call it an "eco-tourism retreat" and the three villas will apparently house about 20 guests. There's a swimming pool and tennis court and it sounds like no expense was spared to make everything look good.
Makepeace Island, which is in the middle of the Noosa River, is nearly ready for visitors, according to recent reports, and we're wondering who we have to get friendly with at Virgin to score an invite to the big opening party. Suggestions, anyone?
[Photo: Michael Dawes]
Two years later, we've got an UPDATE ON VIRGIN HOTELS here.
Last week, we wondered on Jaunted what Virgin Atlantic was announcing via an email to loyalty club members. We thought it might be something like in-flight massage chairs, but according to Marketing Week it's probably three new Virgin Hotels that we first heard of back in March.
Bossman Richard Branson, who already has a few luxe hotels under his belt, says the product will be sorta like Starwood's W Hotels:
Urban, townhouse-style properties, half way between a hotel and a private club.
Apparently other brands have approached his company for ideas, but Branson is ready to just start up some new hotels himself. Rumor has it that the first three properties will be in New York, London and LA.
We are suckers for a room with a killer view. We find that we are even more likely to forgive some minor hotel inconveniences if we can stare out the window at something pretty--yeah we are that shallow. Let's help out our fellow hotel mavens by uploading rooms with killer views to the HotelChatter/Flickr photo pool, or by sending the photo along to us. We will feature our favorites in this space from time to time. Remember to tell us the name of the hotel and the room number of the hot view.
Thanks to HotelChatter tipster srte for dropping this in our Flickr pool. It's from Richard Branson's Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco, and we're more than impressed with this magnificent view from the terrace of the hotel overlooking the pool, and a fantastic garden.
We fell in love with this hotel the first time we looked at it and views like this only make our craving to get there stronger. In a perfect world we'd be booking the Deluxe Suite (which includes a pool) but the Escape Package for that (a three night stay) costs 2,470 (US$3,800) a double, which sadly doesn't fit into our budget this month.
The cheapest option during low season is 320 (US$500) a night for the double, which is more within the realms of possibility.
If you've seen Casablanca, you've dreamt of nights spent at the kasbah, no? Rest assured there are plenty of riad and kasbah accommodations throughout Morocco; some remain empty and some like the Kasbah Tamadot have been turned into luxury retreats.
At the bidding of his mother, Sir Richard Branson bought this property as he began a round the world hot-air balloon excursion from Marrakech. He renovated the magical walled-in building and, in 2005, it became the latest addition to his Virgin Limited Edition portfolio.
Amidst the fairy-tale setting, you'll find 18 individually designed guest rooms, each one offering some sort of outside space, be it a balcony, terrace or private rooftop area, with magnificent views.
If the deal comes off, there'll be a shiny Virgin City Hotel sign on a 44-storey skyscraper on Aytoun Street, Piccadilly. The four-star hotel would only take over 23 floors of the building, and the rest would be taken up by whatever brings most profit to the Albany Crown developers - offices and shops mostly.
Virgin City Hotel is a baby brand and has not actually yet signed any deals with any hotels anywhere. But if it follows the Virgin style, we can imagine the hotel - fluffy bathrobes, hot-tubs, shiny glass-and-steel décor in the bar, dark red sofas and seats, and hopefully working Wi-Fi.