The National WWII Museum Breaks Ground on The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center
Museum developing hotel to support educational mission, enhance visitor experience; set to join Hilton’s Curio Collection
NEW ORLEANS - The National WWII Museum and its Board of Trustees, joined by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, officially broke ground today on The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center. The 230-room Hotel, which is scheduled for completion in 2019, will operate as part of the exclusive Curio Collection by Hilton, one of Hilton's 14 market-leading brands. The first Curio Collection hotel in Louisiana, the property will support the Museum's expanding educational programs while offering guests the unique experience of full-service hotel accommodations with a convenient way to maximize their time at the Museum.
As The National WWII Museum expands its offerings of conferences, symposia, and student and teacher residential programs, the need for a conference center and nearby hotel accommodations has become clear. Recently ranked the No. 2 museum in the world and No. 2 in the country by the 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards, the institution has also developed into a national and international travel destination. Due to this need for meeting space and increase in worldwide reputation, the Museum Board of Trustees established World War II Theatre, Inc., a wholly owned special purpose entity, and retained Hostmark Hospitality Group to manage a hotel and conference center that will support the Museum's mission and growth.
"We fundamentally believe that a dedicated space to host educational programs for students, teachers, enthusiasts, corporate groups, reunion groups, and military is a core component of what we should have here at the Museum," said Stephen J. Watson, President & CEO of the Museum. "When we looked at our last undeveloped piece of land, we wanted to ensure that we created a property that would economically support the Museum's educational mission, while also enhancing our visitor experience. When you pair that with our increasing visitation, a hotel and conference center is a natural choice."
In 2017 alone, The National WWII Museum welcomed 700,000 visitors - 85 percent of those visitors came from out of state, and almost half cited the Museum as their primary reason for traveling to New Orleans. Additionally, since 2009, the percentage of Museum visitors spending more than three hours on campus has tripled to almost 60 percent, and multiday visits are growing even faster.
"In 2017, the Museum is driving more than 300,000 room nights at hotels throughout New Orleans, " said Brandon Berger, World War II Theatre, Inc. Board Chairman. "A hotel will give us the opportunity to offer our visitors convenient accommodations in the ever-expanding Warehouse District neighborhood. But the development will also be geared toward furthering the Museum's educational and research resources for students and scholars alike. With this additional space, we can host more lectures, Meet the Author receptions, conferences and symposia right here on the Museum's main campus."
Named after Higgins Industries shipbuilder Andrew Higgins, the property will be inspired by the war era and feature a striking art deco style designed by renowned architects Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates from Coral Gables, Florida, and interior design firm Kay Lang + Associates from Los Angeles. In addition to 230 guest rooms, the property will feature a second-floor conference center with more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space, including a sophisticated boardroom and five meeting rooms bearing names related to the content and themes of World War II. Six levels of donor underwriting opportunities are available ranging from conference meeting rooms to individual guest suites and rooms.
"The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center will be a great addition to Louisiana and the Curio Collection by Hilton portfolio," said Bill Fortier, Senior Vice President, Development, Americas, Hilton. "The property will provide guests a truly unique and historical experience. As a new build property, we are excited that we have officially broken ground and look forward to opening in 2019."
The Hotel will also offer a built-in loyalty program for the Museum's Membership base of more than 156,000, the largest of any museum in the country, rewarding Members with VIP treatment and encouraging them to think of the Hotel as their home base in New Orleans.
The cost of The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center is $66.5 million, which includes the appraised value of the land. Hotel profits will be distributed to The National WWII Museum to build its endowment and educational mission, providing a source of income to cover the ongoing capital maintenance of the Museum's campus and growth of its educational programs.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. The 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers' ChoiceTM awards ranks the Museum No. 2 in the world and No. 2 in the nation. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.
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