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Hotel picked for Virgin’s space tourists

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Well-heeled international tourists aren’t going to have to rough it quite the way it looked a

The patio and pool area has been remodeled at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

The patio and pool area has been remodeled at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

few years ago when they prepare to travel to Spaceport America for a pioneering launch to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic has named the six-story, 203-room Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces as its official preferred hotel, meaning “space tourists” paying $250,000 a pop for the roughly two-hour flight are expected to stay there.

“We’re big believers in space tourism,” Jim Long of Albuquerque-based Heritage Hotels & Resorts, which owns and operates Hotel Encanto, told the Journal. “It’s coming and it’s coming soon. We have to be ready for it.”

Heritage, which operates seven hotels in New Mexico, is about two years into an improvement campaign at what originally was a Hilton at 705 S. Telshor Blvd. in Las Cruces. So far, a highlight of the improvements is a stylishly designed outdoor patios and garden featuring a new swimming pool with palm trees.

Described on its website as having “a grand Spanish Colonial style,” Hotel Encanto is expanding its number of VIP executive suites from the current seven to as many as 20 if the demand is there, Long said.

An outside look at the 6-story Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

An outside look at the 6-story Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

“Guests … will experience VIP concierge service, private VIP areas, customized room-service menus and upgraded first-class rooms and suites,” Heritage says in a press release on Hotel Encanto’s selection by Virgin Galactic. “These hotel rooms are being remodeled with upgraded bathrooms, custom-built mini-kitchens, and new beds, designed by Adriana Long.”

Adriana, who is Jim Long’s daughter, recently completed a remodel of the Palacio de Marquesa Inn in Taos and will be co-interior designer of Santa Fe’s Eldorado Hotel, which Heritage Hotels recently acquired.

A foyer off the lobby of the remodeled Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

A foyer off the lobby of the remodeled Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

“Although I am probably biased, she has the natural talent to be one of the top interior designers in the U.S.,” Jim Long said in an email. “When you combine her talent with the opportunities we can provide her, I do believe she will one day achieve that level of distinction.”

Over the past year or so, the city has issued building permits valued at just more than $1.3 million to the hotel. Long said the improvements eventually will amount to several million dollars.

Hotel Encanto is currently recognized as a Three Diamond Hotel by AAA, but Long said the improvements will qualify it as a Four Diamond Hotel. Three diamonds is basically an upgraded hotel with a distinguishable style, while four diamonds is upscale. There are no Four Diamond Hotels south of Albuquerque and no Five Diamond Hotels, the top rating, anywhere in New Mexico.

Upscale lodgings had been an issue for Virgin Galactic officials.

The closest town to the Spaceport, Truth or Consequences, lacked high-quality lodgings, so Virgin Galactic officials were investigating construction of an upscale hotel in either TorC or at the Spaceport, according to a April 2011 article in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

The selection of Hotel Encanto as Spaceport’s official preferred hotel shelves immediate plans for spending tens of millions of dollars on building a new luxury hotel.

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