NH Hotels’ Nhow brand is looking to making an immediate splash across Europe and South America. The opening of the Nhow Marseille is set to re-energize the brand and a robust pipeline.
MARSEILLE, France—NH Hotel Group’s brand Nhow is designed to make a bold, colorful statement wherever it goes, according to sources.
Speaking at the September opening of the Nhow Marseille, Hugo Rovira, managing director of Southern Europe and U.S., NH Hotels, said that of the Spanish firm’s four brands, “Nhow is the one with the strong design element.”
The 150-room Nhow Marseille follows Nhow properties in Berlin, Milan and Rotterdam and represents a new push in the brand’s history, with pipeline assets including Santiago de Chile, which opens later this year, and Amsterdam and London, which both open in 2019.
Rovira said Nhow, which also plans properties in Brussels, Frankfurt, Rome and Lima, Peru, will find its own space in the upscale category, driven by each property’s unique design and architecture.
Each hotel will have a different signature color and accomplished architect, likely to hail from that hotel’s city. The 278-room Nhow Rotterdam, which opened in 2014, has red as its signature color and famed Rem Koolhaas behind its blueprints; Nhow Milan, which opened in 2007 with 246 rooms, has orange as its color, and Berlin, which opened in 2010 with 304 rooms, was given pink.
London will be green.
Yellow was the chosen color for Nhow Marseille to represent the Mediterranean sun. Designer Teresa Sapey of Teresa Sapey Studio and architects Christian Lefèvre and Claire Fatosme from architectural practice Claire Fatosme & Christian Lefèvre Architectes are working on the project.
The team also needed to work around the hotel’s illustrious pedigree as the Palm Beach Hotel, on a site famed for its spring, which still trickles into a pool incorporated into the redesign.
“The thermal spa has been here for decades,” Fatosme said. “It already was famous in 1870 and very popular with people in Marseille. It was opened as a hotel in 1975, but it became detached from the city as its owners wanted it to be more traditional. Now we need to bring it back to the city.”
“The hotel’s design had to target people in Marseille, too,” Sapey said.
Initially, there was a difference in opinion concerning design.
“That there is a big difference between Marseille and The Riviera was a point of disagreement at the beginning of the renovation process,” Lefèvre said, who added the project took seven months and approximately €20 million ($23.5 million), including €1 million ($1.2 million) on interior design.
“The hotel placement is quite exceptional. The sea is not separated from the hotel, and it is largely, hugely compensated by its nature and setting, right in the center between the city and the calenques,” steep-sided valleys formed in the limestone by the Mediterranean Sea, he added.
Fatosme and Lefèvre said the emphasis on design and color would stand the test of time.
“We’re always being asked about this as architects, but it is about sustainability, not trends,” Lefèvre said.
“Really, that is not our concern. … We have been most sincere, not deliberately trendy, and were able to be as close to the concept provided to us by NH and the designer,” Fatosme added.
More pluses than minuses
As with all Nhow projects, Rovira said, Nhow Marseille took inspiration from its home city.
“With Marseille, we have the analogy with a car battery, the positive and the negative combining to give (the city) vitality,” Fatosme said. “That it is different from The Riviera is something we wanted to express.”
Moïse Aykanat, the property’s GM said, “There is a huge buzz around the hotel, the former Palm Beach reborn. We will have a program of events, a lively, good mix of people, and the auditorium here for me is a performance space, the only auditorium here on the coast.”
Putting energy back into the cities Nhow assets call home is important to NH Hotels, Rovira said.
“(Lefèvre) and (Fatosme) briefed us as to what was the original hotel, and we spoke to a lot of locals about it. This is what the DNA of Nhow is,” he said.
“Marseille is the second largest city in France, and it has reinvented itself. There is a big change in Marseille. It has opened up to tourism, with more than 50% coming from Italy, United Kingdom, U.S., both on business and leisure,” he added.
“The hotel used to be the flagship of the Marseille bourgeoisie, and the people have been in huge expectation of what the hotel would become, especially as most do not know NH and because they are nosy, a sign of Marseille people,” said Maxime Tissot, director general of the Marseille Office of Tourism and Congresses.
In charge of this boost to Marseille’s fortunes, Tissot said more than 5 million visitors per year visit the city, but that number was the process of 20 years in which the city has been slowly turned around.
Marseille will host water sports during the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“More than 170,000 jobs and €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) in tourism income are the result. We have to continue to improve communications with tourism targets and improving the image of the city and its infrastructure,” Tissot said, who added one project on the table now is obtaining a direct flight from Moscow.
“There are 9,000 hotel rooms in Marseille, but that number was 4,500 15 years ago. We are supporting hotels, and we have seen 300 to 400 new rooms open every year over those years,” he said.
“We are focused on upscale hotels, a mix between four- and five-star hotels, for which it is easier to find larger spaces. Around 80% of the rooms in the city are midscale and below,” Tissot added.