Shot up by Pancho Villa and shuttered for years, this historic gem was renovated with care and reopened with marketing outreach that brought visitors and conventions to El Paso, El Paso residents downtown for the great new food and beverage options, and acted as a spur to broaden revitalization of the downtown El Paso core.
- Originally opened in 1912, the historic Paso del Norte downtown hotel--located less than one mile north of the international border withMexico--had hosted luminaries and numerous presidents for decades before it fell into disrepair and was boarded up some seventy years later.
- During the 1914Mexican Revolution, it was popular to watch gun battles between the Mexican troops and the Revolutionaries from roof-top terraces atop the hotel that provided overlooks of the Franklin Mountains, the El Paso skyline and Juarez, Mexico. During one cross-border raid by Revolutionary leader Pancho Villa, the hotel’s iconic exterior, was allegedly struck by several bullets.
- After it was purchased by Westin Hotels & Resorts, the property underwent a massive two-year renovation which added a seventeen-story annex on the north side of the building, expanded the number of rooms to 359, and added large meeting rooms and modern convention amenities. During the lengthy revitalization of the hotel, special care and great expense were undertaken in the restoration of the old Dome Bar, which is located on first floor. The space is crowned by an enormous 25-foot- diameter stained-glass dome, which was thought to have been originally built by the famous Tiffany Studios.
- Though Westin Hotels were numerous and popular in the larger metropolitan cities of Houston and Dallas, the chain was new to El Paso where downtown hotels and area tourism had been in decline, and business travellers had become accustomed to staying near the airport rather than venturing downtown. Furthermore, the Westin brand was unfamiliar to the people of El Paso and there was local concern over whether this “outside” company would maintain the history and character of one of the city’s most beloved and historic buildings.
- Among regional business and leisure travelers, build trial and word-of-mouth with introductory trial-inducing pricing and by engaging in tourism promotions spotlighting the diverse and exciting variety of area activities (horse racing, mission tours, Juarez shopping trips, etc.). For local El Paso residents, a calendar of civic, charitable, military (nearby Fort Bliss), historic and holiday events were held at the hotel and heavily promoted--which brought the locals out to drive up food and beverage sales.
- A carefully curated calendar of events, low-priced weekend packages, and suggested cool side trips was at the launch program’s core, and PR and advertising (lifestyle and travel magazines, Texas radio networks and 14x48 highway outdoor boards) targeted key traveller business and leisure targets in Texas, Mexico and California
- Bilingual advertising and appropriate Hispanic cultural sensitivity were of paramount importance
- Communications about “Discovering an exciting, new Conventions destination city” were spearheaded by sending out Taste of El Paso direct mail care packages (colorful gift baskets) to Corporate Convention Planners nationwide to get El Paso and The Westin Paso del Norte on the short list
- The hotel attained and sustained 90 percent occupancy levels within 3 months of opening, and food and beverage and convention bookings both far exceeded pre-opening goals
- Based on this success, Westin later expanded into another historic old Texas city with the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio