On Wednesday, June 21, several hundred people from the hospitality industry, the business community, and the press turned out for the official opening ceremonies of Boston’s largest hotel to come on line in 22 years. The Westin Boston Waterfront—with its 793 guest rooms and suites and 32,000 square feet of meeting space, directly connected to the year-old Boston Convention & Exhibition Center—may prove to be the linchpin that turns the up-and-coming waterfront area into a thriving business community.
Joe Fallon, managing partner, Boston Convention Center Hotel Partnership, told attendees that over the next three months, the occupancy rate at the Westin Boston Waterfront is 83 percent—the highest ever for a Starwood opening.
According to Mayor Thomas Menino, who spoke at the event, “This is the beginning of a lot of things happening on the South Boston waterfront.” (The much-anticipated Institute of Contemporary Art, by the design team Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is scheduled to open in September within sightline of the Westin, and a Marriott is set to open next year a block away.) Menino said that the next-door BCEC has 12 bookings already this summer. “Boston sells itself,” he said, while also praising the “courage” of corporations like Manulife and Fidelity in opening offices in the waterfront district.
Gloria Larson, chairman of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority board of directors, said, “This is one heck of a day for this waterfront and for the city of Boston! What we really need to make this [convention center] a success is a connected headquarters hotel. The mayor’s vision of a 24-hour neighborhood is about to be realized.” Larson added, “This is going to be such a popular hotel, clearly for the convention center, but also for the business traveler (we’re eight minutes away from the airport), and for vacationing families who are going to have an amazing view of our newly cleaned-up harbor.
“We picked Starwood to do this hotel in 1999,” Larson continued. “We’ve had a long and somewhat tortuous road to get to this point today. In a post-9/11 era, it’s hard to imagine a period in which it’s been more difficult to finance hotels, especially large hotels.” But now, she said, “We have on the books huge medical and trade shows, tech shows, booking in excess of 30,000 people.”
Referring to the upcoming Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, scheduled for the BCEC in July, Larson said, “If people didn’t have a place to put their heads on beds close by on this waterfront, we would have had a much harder row to hoe. They’re going to be able to walk, literally, next door to their Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Baths, to their Westin Workout, and to a great seafood or steak dinner, all adding considerably to their enjoyment here.”
Sue Brush, senior vice president, Westin Hotels & Resorts, commented that the new hotel would become “the heart of brand Westin.” Besides the signature bed, bath, and workout—guests will encounter a “complete sensory experience” with Westin’s signature White Tea scent and florals by Bloom. Brush also said, to enthusiastic applause from the audience, that Westin has recently adopted “Breathe,” a smoke-free initiative, making it the first hotel brand in the world to go completely smoke-free in all of its hotels.
Steven Heyer, Starwood’s CEO, also addressed the group from the podium. He told the opening-day crowd that he believes that “this hotel will be a brand standard.”
After the speeches, attendees—who shared the hotel with guests who’d booked rooms at a reported opening rate of $299 per night—were greeted in the lobby and mezzanine by an impressively large cast of staffers, a jazz ensemble, and a hot Latin band in a lower-level ballroom, while costumed performance artists on stilts—eerily disguised as birch trees while standing among the actual potted birches in the lobby—passed out chocolate amenities.
Serving stations throughout the first three floors were laden with a dazzling array of food, from cherrystone clams and oysters on the half shell, to custom made veggie sandwiches with melted goat cheese. The Westin’s Sauciety restaurant, tucked off of a quiet corner of the lobby, served a sumptuous tasting menu.