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Orient buys stake in Mexico hotel

Orient-Express Hotels has acquired a 75 percent interest in Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for US$8.4 million. Orient-Express Hotels will manage the property.

The investment was made at a prior year EBITDA multiple of nine. The historic Casa del Parque and a further parcel of land are included, to allow for expansion. A doubling of the rooms is envisaged in due course.

The company will immediately invest US$5 million in renovations and enhancements, including the development of 20 new suites (bringing the room count to 53) a full service spa and a new pool and garden area on the undeveloped parcel of land.

Upon completion of the planned renovations and enhancements in 2007, the property can be positioned at the highest luxury level. Casa de Sierra Nevada will continue to operate during renovation and refurbishment of rooms.

Low wages and construction costs, when combined with international room rates, make Mexican hotel investments exceptionally profitable.


“This is a significant acquisition for Orient-Express, being the 50th property in our unique portfolio,” said Mr. James B. Sherwood, Chairman.

“San Miguel de Allende has been a center for discriminating visitors from the US and Latin America for many years and we look forward to expanding the reach of this very special property to other key markets.”

Opened in 1952, the hotel is located a few blocks from the main city square of San Miguel and was ranked as one of the top hotels in Mexico in the 2006 Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s “Gold List” and Travel + Leisure magazine’s T+L 500.

The hotel’s lobby, 33 existing guest rooms, two restaurants and bars are housed in nine 16th and 18th century Spanish colonial buildings, including Casa del Parque which was a fort in the 17th century and then a customs house catering to the silver trade; and Casa Principal, the former residence of San Miguel de Allende’s Archbishop in 1580 and an official historical landmark.

Each building, which features two to six rooms or suites, is different. Many feature outdoor courtyards with fountains, small gardens and al fresco corridors that create a true residential atmosphere.

Guest rooms and suites capture the rich history of the area, featuring hand painted tiles, bovedas (curved/domed ceilings), polished copper sinks and original paintings by local artists.

Founded in 1542, San Miguel de Allende is located 160 miles north of Mexico City and remains a relatively undeveloped antique city of the old world.

During colonial days, San Miguel was the wealthiest town in silver-rich ‘new Spain’ and a centre of rebel activity during the struggle for Mexican independence.

San Miguel de Allende was named a National Monument in 1926 by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, and later by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.

6,400 feet above sea level, the city enjoys a mild climate year round, with cool evenings. It is a very green city, with trees, flowers and botanic gardens.

The cobble-stoned streets are lined with palaces (dating from the 16th to 18th century) that today are a mixture of private residences, galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Said to capture the ‘real Mexico’, the main plaza is still the social pulse of the city, bullfighting season is awaited with much anticipation and Siesta takes place from 2pm to 4pm daily.

Guests may fly into either Mexico City (a three and a half hour drive away) or the Guanajuato-Leon Airport (one and a half hours away).

The Guanajuato-Leon Airport has direct flights from Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago.

The main north/south motorway from Texas passes within 20 miles of San Miguel de Allende and it is a 10 hour drive from the border.

Orient-Express Hotels’ partner is James Sprowls, a local rancher and developer, along with his wife Marta Villanueva Sprowls, who is a jewelry designer and San Miguel’s honorary Counselor to Spain for the States of Guanajuato and Queretaro.