Virgin Hotels has ambitions to expand its collection of boutique luxury properties to Australia in the next 5-10 years, but will assess the right opportunities, particularly in Sydney, earlier should it present itself, says CEO James Bermingham.
Speaking exclusively with LATTE in Las Vegas at Virtuoso Travel Week, Bermingham said that while Virgin Hotels’ immediate expansion is earmarked for North America and Europe, introducing the portfolio down under is part of the long-term vision.
“Our primary strategic focus is on North America and Europe. I want to be everywhere Virgin Atlantic flies. Everywhere Virgin Australia operates. Virgin Voyages sails to,” Bermingham said.
While Virgin Atlantic exited the Australian market a number of years ago, Virgin Voyages is preparing to base Resilient Lady in Melbourne for a season, commencing late 2023, revealed to the trade first by LATTE.
“Opportunistically, we’ll look at South America, the Caribbean, Australia, and eventually the rest of Asia,” he added.
“In Australia, if we found the right opportunity, I wouldn’t rule that out at all,” the CEO said.
Virgin Hotels currently has seven properties in its collection, located in Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, Las Vegas and New Orleans in the USA. The most recent addition is in Edinburgh, in the UK, while Glasgow in Scotland will join the portfolio in November, Bermingham told LATTE. Further properties in the pipeline include a newbuild in New York City, opening by early 2023, at which time a new project in Miami will also break ground, slated to debut in late 2025.
Doug Carrillo, Chief Marketing Officer at Virgin Hotels said the Virgin Hotels brand is carving out a niche in the high-end traveller market, looking for something very comfortable while at the same time playful.
“Each property has its own individual unique theme, with a red thread of Virgin flowing beautifully through the hotels that really binds us together. The brand is charismatic, fun, energetic, experiential, and our teammates offer heartfelt service,” Carriollo said.
Bermingham added: “We deliberately recruit folks that are interesting, happy and encourage them to be themselves, be engaging, and have a lot of fun. We don’t script what they say, we don’t script how they deliver service, but we let them deliver their way.”
Virgin Hotels also enlists local designers at each of its sites, who may have not had hotel experience before, “so it’s a very different design in every one of our hotels,” he said.
There are numerous hallmarks carried through each hotel, such as Virgin artwork and “Virgin’s cheekiness”. Instead of rooms, Virgin Hotels has ‘chambers’, with the pièce de résistance, the Penthouse… better known as ‘Richard’s Flat’, after Group founder, Sir Richard Branson.
Carrillo also confirmed the US-based Virgin Hotel properties had joined Preferred Hotels and Resorts earlier this year, describing the alliance as a “great partnership for us”.
Lead image: Virgin Hotels’ Doug Carrillo (left), Chief Marketing Officer and James Bermingham, Chief Executive Officer at Virtuoso Travel Week 2022 in Las Vegas.