Icona Resorts' Mahalo Cape May opened on June 16.
By Emma Dooling
Weeks after opening its eighth oceanfront hotel along the Jersey Shore, luxury hotel group Icona Resorts is in talks to acquire two additional properties, a move that would further expand its holdings in the Garden State.
The properties would be in opposite parts of New Jersey, with one north and another along the southern shores, CEO Eustace Mita said. Mita declined to disclose which towns they're located in. The goal is to close on the properties in the fall.
“We're always looking for opportunities, but it has to be the right location…. Whenever we see an opportunity that makes sense and fits into the Icona-Mahalo model, then that's when we buy," Mita said.
Icona Resorts has eight hotels operating under two brands: Icona Resorts, a higher-end offering that keeps its properties open year-round, and Mahalo, a Hawaiian-themed, select-service brand with properties open from April to November. Most of its properties are in South Jersey and are concentrated in Avalon, Cape May and Wildwood Crest. The company has one boutique hotel, The Grand Victorian, in North Jersey located in Spring Lake.
Its eighth resort, Mahalo Cape May, opened on June 16 following a $6 million renovation to the property. The company acquired the 1033 Beach Ave. site — the former home of The Capri Hotel — in May 2022.
Icona Resorts CEO Eustace Mita
BRADLEYDIGITAL.COM | COURTESY OF ICONA
Upgrades to the hotel included updates to the exterior and a larger lobby with handmade surfboards in keeping with the Mahalo brand. Icona also "took the walls down to the studs" inside, Mita said, reconfigured the rooms and added new ceilings, carpeting, furniture, an HVAC system, plus heating, something the former hotel did not have.
Mahalo Cape May has three floors with 47 guest rooms, including three two-story luxury townhomes, six suites, two ADA-accessible studios, 35 queen studios and one ocean view studio. The hotel also features an outdoor heated swimming pool, a third-floor sundeck with a retractable awning and an outdoor grill area.
Icona also undertook renovations during the offseason on three of its other properties. The company constructed a new veranda and a third-floor ballroom and meeting space at Icona Diamond Beach, undertook 10 condominium renovations at the Icona Windrift in Avalon, which it purchased in early 2021, and built a new beach bar at Icona Avalon.
Mita said the resort operator does not have plans to conduct major renovations at any of its properties during the upcoming offseason.
In addition to New Jersey, Mita added that Icona would consider opening resorts on the Delaware and Maryland shores. The company has looked in both areas over the past few years but has not found any properties that fit its model.
Although recession fears have curbed consumer spending slightly this year, Icona continues to see demand for both leisure travelers and corporate business at its properties. So far in 2023, Mita said the company is ahead of its 2019 occupancy rate and on pace with 2022.
Hotel sales and acquisitions have been on the rise at the Jersey Shore recently and Icona isn't the only one snapping up properties. Beachfront resort operator Madison Resorts has purchased two hotels along the Shore in as many years. The company announced its $23 million acquisition of the Montreal Beach Resort in Cape May in early 2022 and purchased the historic Oceanview Motel in Wildwood Crest for $10 million later that year.
Madison Resorts is conducting a $12 million renovation to the 108-room motel's exterior, lobby and rooms. It will maintain the 60-year-old property's doo-wop style. It was one of at least eight Wildwood motels up for sale this past season, with asking prices ranging from $2.6 million to $11.8 million.