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In the Lap of Luxury

Utah’s Luxury Reputation on the Rise

Heather Beers

May 1, 2011

Beijing. Buenos Aires. Abu Dhabi. Park City. That’s right, Park City is among the more recent additions to St. Regis’ portfolio of 41 distinguished hotels worldwide. The city likewise joins the Waldorf Astoria’s collection of 24 luxury destinations scattered from the Maldives to London to Saudi Arabia. And the new “it-place,” the Montage, also singled out—you guessed it—Park City as the site for the newest of its four properties. But it’s not just Park City that’s getting upper-crust attention. Southern Utah is now one of Amanresort’s 20 global destinations, with the exclusive Amangiri opening in colorful desert country about 15 minutes from the shores of Lake Powell. Within the last few years, Utah has seen an increase in the number of luxury hotel properties. In fact, Leisure magazine named Utah the top luxurious destination for 2011, and Slate magazine featured Utah in an article titled “Utah: Why would you vacation anywhere else?” Good to Great So what took Utah from “wonderful getaway” to “luxury getaway?” Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, says, “You can’t discount impact of the Olympics. Although it was nine years ago, it laid the groundwork for what we’re experiencing right now.” Beck explains the Olympics drew discerning travelers to Utah who might not have otherwise visited the Beehive State. They experienced high-end properties like Hotel Park City and the AAA Five Diamond Stein Eriksen Lodge and Grand America Hotel. Once travelers in that echelon saw what Utah had to offer, demand began to grow. Beck also cites the vision of Gov. Jon S. Huntsman and the legislature, which in 2005 created the Tourism Marketing Performance Fund. The TMPF took the Utah Office of Tourism (UOT) marketing budget from about $1 million to an average of $7 million per year, according to Beck. Leigh von der Esch, UOT director, notes the “Life Elevated” campaign (which was created using TMPF funds) has done its job of raising awareness among travelers outside the state. Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, also credits Utah’s flagship luxury properties for helping bring about the recent influx of high-end properties. “People in the luxury brand element were always familiar with the Stein Eriksen Lodge and the success that it had. The secret got out. All you have to do is come here and kick the tires and you get it: this place is a player.” Malone points out Park City’s infrastructure and natural attractions have also been appealing to the luxury brands. “We’ve got 100 restaurants and bars, easy access to the airport and the Greatest Snow on Earth,” he says. Best of the Best For its part, the Stein Eriksen Lodge is proud to be among Utah’s pioneers in luxury travel. Established in 1982 by Olympic gold medalist Stein Eriksen, the lodge has expanded over the years to its current offerings, which include the award-winning Glitretind Restaurant led by acclaimed Executive Chef Zane Holmquist, a spa, and wedding and event space. “As the town grew, we grew,” says Sarah Meyers, spokesperson for the lodge. “The configuration of the lodge is that we’re on 10 acres, there’s a courtyard, the units have exterior doors and the main lodge is separate from arrival lobby. So physically, we’re unlike most of the other hotels here. One of the amenities that has been around since the beginning is our ski locker and ski valets. I always hear that’s the best thing from our guests.” The lodge’s amenities are rivaled only by the staff’s acute attention to detail, something its new luxury neighbors are equally known for. For more than 100 years, St. Regis hotels have pampered guests with impeccable service. From highly trained staff to exquisite architecture, the hotels have been designed to exceed the demands of its well-heeled clientele. The St. Regis Deer Valley is no exception, with its 14,000-square-foot Remedé Spa, its split-level infinity pool and ski beach, St. Regis Butler Service, ski valets and more. The Waldorf Astoria Park City opened in 2009 at the base of Canyons Resort, where the hotel’s dedicated gondola provides guests access to the resort’s 4,000 acres of skiable terrain. The hotel’s Golden Door Spa and award-winning Spruce Restaurant also treat guests to an unforgettable experience. The Montage Deer Valley is the newest kid on the uber block, debuting in December 2010. Touted as “refined Mountain Craftsman,” the lush interiors take the early 20th century aesthetic to a whole new level. The hotel’s 35,000-square-foot spa, 7,000-square-foot ski shop and 17,000 square feet of indoor meeting space are impressive, as are quirky but effective details, like Monty, a Bernese Mountain Dog who serves as the hotel’s resident canine ambassador. A few hours south, the Amangiri began wooing guests to its exclusive 600-acre enclave in 2009. Its 34 suites extend in two wings from the main Pavilion, where guests can enjoy first-class spa and restaurant amenities. With views that look toward the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, guests can escape amid the dramatic Four Corners landscape that is a rarity for luxury destinations. And of course, in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City is the acclaimed Grand America Hotel, which opened its doors in 2001 just before the Olympics arrived. As mentioned, it is one of two Utah hotels earning the AAA Five Diamond distinction. Its European flair is thanks to Ritz-Carlton designer Frank Nicholson, and its 775 rooms and suites feature Richelieu furniture, original works of art and Italian marble bathrooms. With thousands of square feet of meeting space, the hotel accommodates leisure and business travelers alike. So from cow town to swanky town, Utah has risen to prominence on the world’s luxury travel stage. It’s the result of several factors: smart legislation; great marketing; an unusual degree of collaboration among private/public, state and local tourism leaders; and of course, that little competition called the Olympics.
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