A successful renovation project may have the power to boost occupancy rates and RevPAR, but it won’t carry much weight if you disappoint guests before they even walk through the door. As owners across the country pour money into fixing up their lobbies, guestrooms, meeting spaces, and restaurants, exterior appearances often get overlooked. Hotels that invest in curb appeal can ensure people have a positive arrival experience.
“The most valuable piece of property in your hotel is from the front door to the front desk—that first impression is really important,” says Sam Cicero Sr., founder of Cicero’s Development Corp., a full-service hotel renovations contractor in Plainfield, Ill. “But curb appeal is how it all starts.”
Easy-to-read signage, neat landscaping, a well-lit parking area, and a contemporary entrance create a welcoming sense of arrival. “‘Heads in beds’ has always been the name of the game, and if you can’t get people in the door, you’re never going to go any further with them,” Cicero explains.
Cicero’s Development recently began final exterior work on the Wyndham Houston–Medical Center Hotel and Suites after completing the interior stage of the property’s multimillion dollar renovation in January. Built in 1981, the hotel was last renovated in 2007.
Exterior features at the Wyndham Houston will include an ADA-compliant entrance with push panels for the doors and a roomy porte cochere that can fit multiple cars. To avoid congestion at the main entrance, there will be a separate area for guests waiting for taxis or rides and a designated smoking area positioned far away from the front doors. “They want to make it a very pleasant way to enter,” Cicero says.
There are a lot of steps to go through when it comes to exterior façade work, including getting city permits and brand approval, he says. “In Houston, it probably took us a good eight months to even get a permit to do the exterior. They wanted to know about the color, the size, and how it was going to be anchored to the building.”
The cost for exterior upgrades varies, depending on such factors as size of the building and how extensive the changes are. For instance, brands may ask owners to update their rooflines, marquees, or porte cocheres when they roll out new standards, which can be costly. “It’s almost always more than just a color change,” Cicero says. “You used to be able to slap a coat of paint on it, but those days are almost over.”
Many older hotels are removing old-fashioned-looking mansard roofs and putting up new systems. New materials are being used on exteriors, such as exterior insulation and finish systems or metal panels mounted on the outside of the building, provided the substrate is good and tight, Cicero says. Installing new windows also can improve the overall exterior appearance.
“We’re getting more and more opportunities to bid on exteriors because a lot of people are taking older buildings and freshening them up,” says Cicero, who recalls a couple of times when he and his wife booked a well-reviewed hotel online and then changed their minds after pulling in the driveway. “Curb appeal is much more important than a lot of people give credit for.”