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An inside look at a revamped Chicago classic

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As spectacular as they are, hotels will start to look worn over time if not refreshed. And no one wants to stay in an outdated or tired property.

Hotels are typically renovated or redesigned on a general 8- to 12-year cycle,” says Rike Erdbrink, general manager of Park Hyatt Chicago. “Retouches take place every few years to keep up with technology trends, and guest rooms like furniture or bedding are updated to make sure those details stay fresh over time.”

When a hotel undergoes a renovation, a decision must be made whether to keep the property open and build one section at a time or to close it entirely and undergo a major assembly.

In the case of Park Hyatt Chicago, which opened in 1980 as the very first Park Hyatt hotel, the property closed completely during its five-month renovation. “The hotel has undergone a massive transformation that has necessitated the shutdown of regular operations, in the interests of guest safety,” Erdbrink says. “It may not necessarily be ‘better’ than renovating while continuing to operate steadily, but our loyal customers trusted our decision, and I think it paid off.” Changes include upgrades to the hotel’s rooms and suites, lobby, spa, library, and updates to the signature restaurant, NoMI. “For this renovation project, we focused on lightening and brightening the interiors of the hotel to create a more modern space,” she says.

The good moment

Closing a hotel for five months is never ideal, but sometimes the timing isn’t so bad. Erdbrink explains: “In the case of our hotel, we came across an optimal scenario. These renovations take up to five years to complete, sometimes longer. That this conversation started so early and took place during Chicago’s low season in the midst of a pandemic was truly a silver lining.

For the employees, it wasn’t a bad deal either. Hyatt has allowed select team members to work on different projects and even work at other hotels across the country as the Chicago property closes. “Everything went well,” Erdbrink says.

Attract new travelers as well as regular visitors

The fear of closing a hotel is that travelers will go elsewhere, so the goal is to attract new travelers while retaining old ones. Erdbrink says, “Travellers these days are vying for something new and something that’s ‘now’. At the height of the pandemic, customers want above all to feel safe and to have an experience that transforms their view of the world. We unveiled things like a new room design, something that reflects the natural surroundings of the hotel but also the progressive nature of our great city, Chicago. We are building a refreshed art collection that is more diverse and provocative. We want our future customers to feel that we are going in the right direction since our reopening and that we offer a unique, worldly and inclusive product.

travel trends

Travel habits and what people look for in a hotel also change over time. Erdbrink notes, “Personal routines have changed over the past few years. Travelers are looking for more personal space and thoughtful amenities. With that, we’ve seen an increase in demand for suite bookings over our standard room We offer suites like our Wellbeing Suite at the Park Hyatt Chicago, where there’s a room-ready TONAL fitness system and opportunity for a Peloton bike, amenities like sleep oils, body butter, and a massage machine. Sounds are placed in the room alongside nutritional superfoods and cold-pressed juices.” The design and color of the room is serene but also reflects the surrounding parks and Lake Michigan. It’s a balance between personalized travel but also the desire to be worldly.”

How Destination Affects Hotel

Chicago keeps growing, expanding and changing. New restaurants, attractions and theatrical performances are continually being unveiled. This is not a city that sits on its laurels. “The city of Chicago offers, if not demands, growth. It’s a city with so much to offer,” says Erdbrink. Chicago attracts travelers from countries scattered around the world – it is a world-class destination.

The Park Hyatt Chicago is the brand’s flagship Park Hyatt. This is literally where it all started. “This specific hotel led to the formation of the Park Hyatt brand. It was created to be that extension of the house. We have spaces called the Library, the Living Room, the Garden, the Kitchen, even. Chicago is pictured in this hotel. With this reinvention, we hope customers will pick up on our efforts to bring the outdoors in – our slogan is “Where the world sees Chicago, and Chicago sees the world” – it’s all in our details. From curating artwork by Chicago-born artists, to handpicking photographs from the hotel’s archives that are now on display in guest rooms, to simply showcasing green botanical accents in each room for reflect the beautiful parks and Lake Michigan that frame our hotel.

The hotel sits at one of the city’s most iconic addresses, in the heart of the Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. There’s plenty to explore nearby, including Lake Michigan, the historic Water Tower park, upscale shopping, and proximity to iconic art museums like the MCA and the Art Institute.