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Resorts Put Stock in Livestock, Frisbee Golf

June 23rd, 2011 in

But those critters are permanent guests in Austin at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, part of a “zoo” that also features horses and a 125-pound dog, Hoss the Newfoundland. The Austin resort also caters to teenagers with activities such as zip lining, Frisbee golf and kayaking on the Colorado River.

“A resort in some ways is like an amusement park,” said John Scovell, chief executive of Dallas-based Woodbine Development Corp., owner of four U.S. hotels and resorts, including the Austin Hyatt. “Every once in a while, you have to add a new ride” to keep it fresh. Mr. Scovell spoke Friday at a conference of the National Association of Real Estate Editors at San Antonio’s Hotel Menger.

Competition has gotten stiffer for resort operators in recent years as the amenities that previously set a resort apart — spas, white-tablecloth restaurants and golf courses — now can be found at nearly every luxury property.

These days, resorts are highlighting new bells and whistles that match their surroundings, such as guest lectures by local historians and guided excursions for guests into the surrounding countryside or waters. Some are catering to families by adding family tee times, livestock and other diversions.

Woodbine’s Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio offers a manmade “river” and beach for tubing and lounging. The resort’s golf courses block off nine of their 27 holes most afternoons for use by families. “If you put enough family amenities there, (guests) will never leave the resort,” Mr. Scovell said.

A Texas-shaped adults-only pool at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.

Most resort amenities, old and new, are loss leaders. Some generate no direct revenue. But many are expected by guests, and the newer attractions can help boost a property’s occupancy. High-end restaurants, in particular, are a costly necessity for resort owners.

“We would be better off if I stood at the door of that restaurant and paid you $10 not to eat there,” Mr. Scovell said. “We would lose less money (that way). But it’s part of the expectation.”

The aim is for the amenities to contribute to the resort’s overall profitability by putting heads in beds. To that end, hoteliers make 80% of their profit from room rates, Mr. Scovell said.

Corrections & Amplifications: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Woodbine Development Corp. owns 10 U.S. hotels and resorts.