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Iconic InterContinental Hotel to change name under new management

The iconic InterContinental Hotel in Isla Verde — whose moniker has stretched across its façade since the early 2000s — will be rebranded later this year, or early in 2021, as it shifts to new management through a transaction between owner Service Properties Trust and Sonesta International Hotels.

The sprawling beachfront hotel, which has been known by at least five names since it was built in 1956, will be moving to Sonesta’s portfolio sometime after Nov. 30, 2020.

On Tuesday, Sonesta announced the addition of 103 properties to its global group of hotels and destinations, including the transfer of the branding and management of 103 InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotels, which were under Service Properties Trust (known as SVC for its NASDAQ symbol).

“The transfer to Sonesta management and branding from IHG includes 22 full service and 81 extended stay hotels in the U.S. [mainland], the District of Columbia, Ontario, Canada and Puerto Rico,” according to the Mass.-based company. “Sonesta will transition management following the termination of SVC’s agreement with IHG on or about Nov. 30, 2020.”

SVC, which will retain ownership of the properties, decided to transfer these hotels to Sonesta following an uncured default by IHG.

“Among the factors SVC considered in deciding on this change were its 34% ownership of Sonesta, its historical experience from the 2012 transition of 16 hotels to Sonesta from IHG and the belief that they will perform as well or better as Sonesta branded and managed hotels post-conversion,” the company stated.

With this transaction, Sonesta now has more than 160 properties in the continental U.S. and nearly 200 properties globally.

“We’re extremely proud of the continued confidence that SVC has demonstrated by entrusting Sonesta to rebrand and assume management of 103 more of their hotels. In these unprecedented times, it is more crucial than ever to ensure we do not compromise our dedication to operational excellence; the safety and security for our guests and employees; and the delivery of skilled and genuine hospitality,” said Sonesta International Hotels Corp. CEO Carlos Flores.

Many changes over the years
The InterContinental Hotel in San Juan is the latest incarnation of what was originally the Americana Hotel, built in Isla Verde in 1956. It subsequently changed hands — and names — several times, becoming The Palace (owned by former political figure Nicolás Nogueras in the 1980s), the Sands Hotel during most of the 1990s, and the InterContinental starting in 2002, when it underwent a comprehensive makeover under IHG.

Ironically, the hotel property right next to it — which currently carries the Fairmont El San Juan brand — was the first to be briefly known as the El San Juan Intercontinental decades ago.

For the past 18 years, the 15-story InterContinental has undergone several renovations. In 2014, IHG announced the completion of a $22.2 million top-to-bottom improvement project that included upgrades to its 398 rooms, lobby, meeting rooms and common areas, as this media outlet reported.

Five years later, in 2019, IHG launched another major renovation project, estimated at $80 million, after taking a hit from Hurricane María two years prior. Although it was affected, the property never closed, providing accommodations to emergency personnel. It fully reopened in January 2020.

Under the new management, the property will no longer display its familiar name across its façade, this media outlet confirmed.

“The signage will change along with any other brand messaging within the hotel. Sonesta is a brand that takes a great deal of pride in reflecting the local environment and culture. In fact, we often say ‘When you’ve seen one Sonesta – you’ve seen one Sonesta’,” a Sonesta spokesperson said.

This is not the first time that Sonesta has managed a hotel in Puerto Rico, the same spokesperson confirmed. From 1961 to 1966, Sonesta ran the former 216-room Miramar Charterhouse Hotel in San Juan — which later became a government office building.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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