Rosewood’s president on building luxury for locals and gearing up for company’s biggest growth year ever

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When you hear travel critics say that the big brands like Marriott and Hilton don’t really know how to run luxury hotels, it’s probably because those critics have stayed at a property affiliated with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

The Texas-originating (the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas was the company’s first hotel) and now Hong Kong-based luxury hotel brand was born of the idea of creating properties with residential touches and hyperattentive service.

Rosewood is also known for designing hotels that become landmarks in the cities in which they operate: The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel in New York City is synonymous with legendary jazz and equally as legendary mixology. Rosewood Hong Kong’s perch on Victoria Harbour is home to some of the city’s most renowned power dining spots as well as an incubator of sorts of the brand’s newer membership club, Carlyle & Co., as well as a beefed-up city version of Rosewood’s Asaya spa concept.

Expect more of this kind of luxurious localization to spread around the world, as the company’s expansion streak is expected to build over the next few years to the highest growth seen in the company’s 44-year history.

“As we continue to add new properties and as we continue to find new locations, that’s the first thing we look at,” Radha Arora, Rosewood’s president and co-chief development officer, said. “Is this property really emblematic of that location?”

Related: What it’s like staying at the Rosewood Baha Mar

Rosewood currently has 32 hotels across its portfolio but is on track to more than double that number in coming years. Rosewood Munich opened this month in Germany but will gain several new siblings next year with the expected arrivals of Rosewood Amsterdam, Rosewood Schloss Fuschl in Austria, Rosewood Miyakojima in Japan and Rosewood Doha.

Properties in Milan, Mexico City, Rome, Vietnam, Venice and Greece as well as a second London hotel, are slated beyond those 2024 openings.

“[2025] is going to be one of those years where we’re going to be probably opening the most properties we’ve ever opened in one particular year,” Arora said.

Thinking like a local

Don’t take the accelerating growth as a sign the company is moving into a more cookie-cutter design phase where hotels can be replicated and built quickly. Arora noted the company still goes to great lengths to have a deliberative development process so that hotels resemble the surrounding community and are a place where locals want to socialize.

The Mansion at Turtle Creek, a manor house-style hotel nestled within a residential Dallas neighborhood, established the localized flourishes that Rosewood is still known for decades later. The brand specifically chose Rosewood London’s location near Covent Garden because it wasn’t in the usual bastion of ultraluxury hotels in the city like Mayfair or Knightsbridge, Arora said.

Paris’ Hotel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel is supposed to feel like a living room of “old apartments that, over the years, you’ve collected pieces and accessories while you’ve been living in Paris, home to the fashionistas,” he added.

The hyperlocalization and attention to detail appear to be working and are even a business advantage in wooing both guests and deals for more hotels. Hotel de Crillon saw its highest-ever occupancy and demand levels this year, Arora said. Further, room nights booked at Rosewood Bangkok are up 153% from a year ago while Rosewood Phuket is up 29%.

“We don’t build properties for tourists. We build properties for locals, first and foremost, and make sure that we engage ourselves with the local partners,” Arora said. “That comes to food, amenities and anything that comes to punctuating a property.”

Build for the locals, and the out-of-towners will follow their lead, the thinking goes.

What’s next for Rosewood

Rosewood’s growth trajectory has also seen the company expand into newer ventures under the direction of Sonia Cheng, the company’s CEO.

The growth of residential components at Rosewood properties, as well as stand-alone Rosewood-branded residential developments, is on the rise. As of this year, half of the company’s existing hotel portfolio, as well as its development pipeline, features a residential component. There are also six stand-alone residential projects in various stages of development in markets like Beverly Hills, California, and South Florida.

“We were hesitant at first, but we realized that people want a piece of Rosewood as their home,” Arora said with a laugh.

Carlyle & Co., a membership club paying homage to the Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel in New York City, is located within the same tower as Rosewood Hong Kong. The self-described “modern, progressive” club is meant to be more of an inclusive space than other private Hong Kong clubs, and Rosewood leadership maintains it’s a place where character and personality trump what one does for a living. There are plans to expand Carlyle & Co. to select global destinations.

Asaya, Rosewood’s wellness offering, is in six hotels — including Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Vienna and Phuket — with plans for continued expansion. Asaya is more of an immersive experience than a usual hotel spa, with well-being classes, treatments, nutritionists and even overnight Asaya Lodges for “contemplative, regenerative stays” offered to coincide with a treatment program that fits the guest.

New World Hotels & Resorts, Rosewood’s upper-upscale brand, is a nod to the Hong Kong company that acquired Rosewood when it was still a privately held Texas company. The Asia-focused brand currently has 15 hotels in its portfolio, with three more slated to open by the end of 2023 and an additional two opening next year.

“Growing new brands and business ventures will further position us as a brand of choice for modern luxury consumers in the future,” Arora said.

Business and industry outlook

With global macroeconomic conditions a little murky at the moment, it’s reasonable to wonder if there’s a limit to the runway for all the growth in ultraluxury hotels. Sure, customers in this social strata tend to be a little recession-proof, but high interest rates make expansion more difficult amid rising construction costs.

While Arora is mindful of the economy, he also sees opportunity and advantage with Rosewood being a smaller brand.

“There is always going to be some kind of cycle. There are always going to be some challenges,” he said before adding: “We mitigate some of that risk because we are going to some parts of the world that are going to be still seen as a safe haven to go to, where you know what you’re going to get.”

The Rosewood executive emphasized there is still “incredibly high demand” for ultraluxury and that consumers prefer experiences like travel. Making sure the overall offerings at Rosewood remain elevated is crucial to making sure that demand momentum remains at its lofty peak.

“We continue to remain confident in the industry’s long-term health and continue to invest in new guest experiences,” Arora said. “We don’t just build hotels. We build destinations.”

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