A luxury hotel brand launched by Sir Richard Branson — the billionaire brainchild behind the Virgin empire of ventures in travel, entertainment, communications, and retail — might be landing in Austin.
Virgin Hotels has an opened property in Chicago and has properties in the pipeline for Dallas; Nashville, Tennessee; Palm Springs, California; and New York. Beyond that, Austin sits on Virgin Hotels’ short list of expansion targets along with Bogota, Colombia; Boston; London; Los Angeles; Madrid; Miami; Paris; San Francisco; Sao Paulo; Seattle; and Washington, according to company press releases and marketing materials.
In Austin and other wish-list markets, Virgin Hotels says it’s looking at ground-up developments, acquisitions of existing properties, partnerships with current owners, and third-party management deals.
Other than putting the city on its hit list, Virgin Hotels hasn’t revealed plans for Austin, such as when and where a hotel would open.
“The brand is always looking for new cities to explore for potential properties. Austin is indeed on our radar, but we have nothing to report just yet,” says Amanda Caskey, a spokeswoman for Virgin Hotels.
The first Virgin property opened in 2015 in Chicago. It features 250 guest rooms, 40 one-bedroom suites, and two “rock star” suites. The 27-story hotel occupies the old Dearborn Bank building in the Chicago Loop area.
The Nashville property is scheduled to open in 2017, with the Dallas, Palm Springs, and New York hotels set to debut in 2018.
In potential expansion markets, Virgin Hotels is mulling properties ranging from small boutique hotels to larger luxury hotels. The company says it wants to plant its flag “in appealing neighborhoods that will meet the expectations of travelers in the ‘creative class’ — a culture and mindset that represent the values of our target guests.” That guest is a wealthy, well-educated “metropolitan professional,” the hotelier says.
A recent check of the Virgin Hotels website shows regular room rates that align with the brand’s high-flying clientele. A mid-May weekend stay at the Chicago property is going for a steep $292 to $382 per night.