Harold Rapoza, General Manager at the Hilton Anatole leisure and convention hotel in Dallas, Texas, describes Jade Waters Waterfront Resort as the last piece in the venue’s amenity jigsaw puzzle.
The old pool has been swept away, replaced by an oasis-style luxury offering designed to boost occupancy levels during the traditionally quieter (and hotter) summer months.
Blooloop spoke to Rapoza about working with Aquatic Development Group (ADG) to create the refreshingly new facility that is proving a hit not just with leisure customers, but with business groups, too.
Art and Soul
Rapoza was born and raised in Hawaii. His father was a hotelier, which gave him a taste for the industry.
“After doing my studies in Hawaii I was recruited, about twenty-five years ago, by Hilton for their management development programme.”
In 1991, he joined the Portland Hilton, subsequently becoming Director of Rooms.
“In 2000, I transferred within Hilton down to California. I spent about 10 years in California, in a couple of properties. I got my first General Manager job at the Hilton Anaheim in Orange County, California. That was back in 2004.”
Like the Anatole, the Hilton Anaheim was a large convention hotel, with 15, 072 rooms.
“And then, in 2011, I had an opportunity to come to the Hilton Anatole in Dallas here as General Manager. I’ve been here for five years.”
The Hilton Anatole is owned by Crow Family Holdings, the office that manages the capital of real estate developer and enthusiastic collector of East Asian art, Trammell Crow – hence the hotel’s unique theming.
One of the Hilton brand’s largest and top-earning hotels, it is decorated with more than a thousand art objects. Most are Asian but there are some surprising pieces including a casting of the famous bronze sculpture, Riding Into the Sunset, and two sections of the Berlin Wall.
Rapoza: “We have 1606 rooms, 350, 000 square feet of meeting space; we sit on 46 acres, and have five restaurants and bars, a world-class fitness centre which is 80, 000 square feet, a luxury spa with eight treatment rooms, and now we have Jade Waters, which was the last piece of the puzzle here from a resort amenity standpoint.”
A Gap in the Market
According to Rapoza, the decision to add the Jade Waters facility was driven partly by the guests themselves.
“We’ve been listening to our customers for quite some time. They kept saying that we had great amenities, great restaurants, fitness centre and spa, but we just had an undersized pool.”
“So we listened to our customers. We’d been watching some of the resorts here in the Texas area, primarily in South Texas: they’ve been building big resort pools over the last four or five years, and watching the business levels increase. There was an apparent void here in the Dallas Metro area.
“There’s no huge, upscale resort in Dallas, and the summer months are typically slow for Dallas. Unless you have something that can generate some demand, and generate interest for people to come to Dallas, they’re just not coming here.
“So we met with the owners three years ago, and really put a plan together to design a nice luxury resort pool, and to try to increase traffic and increase occupancy levels in the summer months.”
Aquatic Development Group
Enter New York-based Aquatic Development Group (ADG), an industry leader in the planning, design and construction of pools, waterparks and aquatic amenities.
“We’ve been working with ADG for a while, ” says Rapoza. “It was about three years ago that we originally started talking about this. We selected ADG because they’ve got a great history of building resort pools. They’ve built them here in Texas as well as Orlando, Florida, some in California and Arizona, so we felt like they were the right fit for us.
“The Anatole is very sophisticated and elegant and has great artworks throughout the hotel. Our owners wanted somebody that could carry that image of the hotel out to the resort pool.”
Jade Waters is a three-acre complex that includes two event lawns, as well as its water features. Facilities include a 23 seat swim-up bar, a 4, 000 square foot leisure pool, a 7, 000 square foot beach-entry family pool and children’s play area and two 180ft undulating water slides. There is also a 630ft lazy river as well as private cabanas and lounging for over 800 guests.
“It also has a teen and child activity area. We went after not only the families, but also the couples and the solo travellers.
“We have a seven acre park which was created around 35 years ago with a lot of mature trees. It was really important to our owners that we keep the landscaping, and build the pool around the existing trees.”
According to Rapoza, art is also still central to Crow Family Holdings’ agenda.
“We have a number of pieces of art throughout the hotel, a lot of which is Asian art. We wanted to keep that design and that theme in Jade Waters.
“Altogether, therefore, we have 46 pieces of art incorporated into Jade Waters. So, if you’re going down the lazy river, or you’re in the leisure pool or the activity area, or in the restaurant cabanas, you’re going to see a lot of unique art.”
The name ‘Jade Waters’ references the numerous jade horses throughout the complex, some of which flank each of the cabanas.
“The inspiration for Jade Waters came from these art pieces. I think the combination of the lush landscaping and the Asian art makes it into an oasis. It’s really a unique setting.”
From a business perspective, the motive behind the luxury aquatic oasis was to drive the Hilton Anatole’s occupancy levels.
“It’s really to drive room nights.
“If you book a king bedroom, you get two wristbands and that gives you access into the resort pool. If you book a double room, you get four wristbands to allow you into the resort pool. You can buy up to two additional wristbands per room. If you have friends or family in the area and they want to join you, you can buy two additional wristbands at $25 each.
“The complex is open from Memorial Day to Labour Day. The leisure pool, with the swim-up bar, is heated and open all year round.”
Occupancy and F&B Exceeding Expectations
Jade Waters opened on the 22nd of July and drove up hotel occupancy and resort fees almost instantly. Food and beverage sales in the complex exceeded expectations. Summer visitation saw more guests from within the local market with an average rate of 30-35% increase over last summer.
“95% of the comments that have been coming in have been incredibly positive, ” says Rapoza. “People are loving the fact that it’s the only one in Dallas, and it’s really close to downtown. Everybody is really enjoying the entire experience: the lazy river, the cabanas, the art pieces, the lush landscaping.
“The service levels have been incredible. Our intention this year was really to make sure we created a memorable experience for our customers when they came into Jade Waters, and it’s been great.”
“We built it to increase our leisure customers, but we are also getting a lot of positive comments from groups. We are doing events on the lawn out there next to the pool: we’re doing smaller events in the pool area.
“Groups are also coming in pre-event and post-event and staying a little longer because of the pool. We’re not only getting a lot of interest from our leisure family customers, we’re getting a lot of positive comments from groups as well.
“When customers get out to Jade Waters it’s like an oasis: they’re expecting a very surreal, very calm, very elegant experience out there, whether in the lazy river or using the leisure pool – something that is peaceful yet fun – it really caters to all demographics, to all ages, families and couples and solo travellers.”
The ‘quiet’ season at the Hilton Anatole has clearly become something to shout about.
(All images kind courtesy Hilton Anatole)