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Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina
Launches Property Expansion

Adding 22 Guestrooms, Bringing Room Count to 90, and an
Additional Outdoor Heated Mineral Pool

HIGHLANDS, N.C., Dec. 15, 2011
-- Old Edwards Inn and Spa announces the addition of 22 new guestrooms and an outdoor heated mineral pool to accommodate the growing demand for accommodations at the North Carolina mountain resort.  The Forbes Four-Star property, which cascades over several acres in the resort town of Highlands, broke ground on the project November 7, 2011.  Scheduled for completion the first quarter of 2013, the addition will bring the hotel's room count to 90. The new mineral pool will be the third at the resort; the second pool was completed in 2009 as part of the Old Edwards Club golf addition.

Guests that book at Old Edwards after the first quarter of 2013 will have the option of staying in one of the new "Falls Cottages," each named for a local waterfall. The buildings are being constructed of native wood and stone in keeping with the previous renovations—now totaling upwards of $70 million—that have taken place since 2004, when Art and Angela Williams of Palm Beach, Florida, purchased the property and began to invest in its transformation.  Like most other guestrooms and suites at the European style resort, the new rooms will feature gas fireplaces, heated marble bathroom floors, spacious living areas and the flexibility to book an entire cottage with adjoining rooms and common areas for groups or families.

The Falls Cottages at Old Edwards are designed around a new courtyard with garden landscaping, curving walkways, a rustic special-events building, the new free-form heated mineral pool and whirlpool, and a freestanding stone fireplace on the pool deck.  The renovated special events building—formerly a barbecue restaurant at the resort—will also service the pool area with food and beverage offerings.

The Falls Cottages are located on the "back" of Old Edwards property at the foot of Satulah Mountain, two blocks from the historic main inn which fronts Main Street, Highlands. The new construction is in the vicinity of the resort's real estate offering, Old Edwards Private Residences at Satulah, which went on the market in 2009 and feature the same native wood and stone of the new cottages.

Old Edwards CEO Richard Delany moved to Highlands to assume management of the resort in 2008.  He says, "When the economy started slowing, of course we were concerned about the viability of the hospitality industry. What we found is that people feel the need to get away now even more than ever. And being located in a scenic mountain town a short drive from Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, and Greenville, SC—which all have major airports—has made Old Edwards a popular destination for city dwellers in need of a retreat."

Highlands, North Carolina, has long been a popular summer resort for second home owners and vacationers—especially Floridians—who escape the summer heat to enjoy the town's temperate climate, Main Street charm, Wine Spectator restaurants, lively arts community and abundant outdoor recreation.  But, over the past few years, the winter season has continued to burgeon as well—particularly on weekends, says Delany. "We've been very fortunate to see an increased demand in both the summer and winter months—filling the hotel, the spa and the restaurants. We are now booking the hotel every weekend throughout the winter and are fully booked in the warmer months well in advance."

In an economy where business failures are dominating the headlines, Old Edwards has managed to buck the trend and realize significant growth. In fact, the resort has nearly doubled its winter business since 2008 and has seen a 30% rise in annual occupancy in that same three-year period.  The hotel realized a 24% increase in total revenue from 2009 to 2010 alone.

Delany also points to an increase in destination weddings at Old Edwards since 2008, as well as the number of families with children that now vacation at the resort. "We opened our doors to families with children when we first assumed management of what was then an adults-only resort.  And we have doubled the number of weddings at Old Edwards over the past three years because of our ability to host large and small weddings in several different venues."  With the completion of a newly enclosed glass and stone pavilion at The Farm at Old Edwards in spring 2011, the company expects to see an increased demand for winter weddings as well.

Old Edwards Marketing Director Amanda Sullivan says, "People are also simply becoming aware that the resort exists. With online travel advisory sites like TripAdvisor, word can spread very quickly about a world-class 'hidden gem' in the mountains of North Carolina.  The comment we hear over and over from first-time guests is, 'Wow, I had no idea.'" That increased awareness was undoubtedly helped along by the resort's designation by Conde Nast Traveler as the #1 Hotel Spa in North America in 2010, one of many top travel industry awards the resort is receiving.

The new Falls Cottages were designed and are being built by John Lupoli Construction of Highlands, the same company that built the new Farm Pavilion in early 2010.

Amanda Sullivan

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