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High-flying Virgin treads carefully when entering hotels

April 23, 2014 Headline News, Hotel News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group is going into cruising, into tourism submarines and into space with Virgin Galactic, is proving much more cautious about entering a rather more down-to-earth area of tourism endeavour – hotels.

The flamboyant British billionaire entrepreneur, a try-anything impresario in the grand tradition, boasted in 2010 that his new boutique hospitality brand, Virgin Hotels, would make big waves in the industry.

Branson said the group would open its first property in 2012 and than expand to about 20 properties over the next seven years.

Nearly four years after that ambitious launch, Virgin Hotels hasn’t opened a single property. Coles-Training_250X250px

An article in the Wall Street Journal says the brand’s maiden hotel is due to open in Chicago later this year, a year behind schedule, after a big cost blow-out. The new hotel will be located in a Chicago landmark, the Old Dearborn Bank Building. The bank, built in 1928 the year before the Wall Street Crash, is being totally refurbished and refitted.

Virgin Hotels is concentrating, initially at least, on the US. Other properties are slated to open in Nashville and New York. Across the Atlantic, London is also on the cards. Virgin’s plan to acquire distinct properties in North America cheaply during the property downturn didn’t work out because, according to the Wall Street Journal,  banks that held distressed real-estate assets chose to keep them rather than flog them off.

Meanwhile Virgin, which still holds a stake in Virgin Australia, has raised most of the USD 1.7 billion it needs to build two new ships and launch Virgin Cruise from Port Miami.

Branson said much investment money for the cruise project had come from the Middle East. Virgin Cruise would sail the Caribbean and Mediterranean and should launch by 2019.

“We have a concept which is very sexy and hopefully it will be the kind of cruise ship I’d like to go on and the type my children will go on,” he said.

Branson, 63, has created more than 400 brands, including companies in travel, aviation, telecommunications, music, media and financial services. He is currently  seeking investment for Virgin Oceanic, a sister company to Virgin Galactic. He wants to build submarines to explore the depths of the ocean.

Written by : Peter Needham

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