Pojoaque Pueblo has taken over management of the Hilton and Homewood Suites hotels at the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino north of Santa Fe.

Hilton had operated both hotels since it opened the Hilton in 2008 and Homewood Suites in 2005.

The pueblo confirmed its Buffalo Thunder Inc. assumed management of the hotels Aug. 18. BTI has operated the Buffalo Thunder casino since it opened in 2008, and the pueblo is now ready to operate the hotels after 12 years, said Michael Allgeier, CEO of Buffalo Thunder Inc.

“It has always been the intention of the pueblo to be self-sufficient and manage the property itself,” Allgeier said. “It’s time.”

Allgeier said the transfer of management had been in the works since last October. Buffalo Thunder Inc. is a division of Pojoaque Pueblo and operates the casinos and Cities of Gold Hotel, as well as the Hilton and Homewood Suites.

The 395-room Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder hotel with between 190 and 208 employees reopened Sept. 1 after closing in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pojoaque Pueblo reopened its Buffalo Thunder, Cities of Gold and Jake’s casinos Sept. 2 after voluntarily closing them in March. The 81-room Homewood Suites with 35 employees remained open, Allgeier said.

Allgeier said the pueblo has operated the Cities of Gold Hotel since the casino opened in 1998.

The Hilton and Homewood Suites brands at Buffalo Thunder remain in place with BTI operating them as a franchise. Many branded hotels are owned and operated by independent entities that license the hotel brand name.

In the U.S., Hilton Hotels & Resorts manages 65 properties and franchises 176 properties, according to Hilton’s

second-quarter earnings report.

“Hilton and hotel ownership have reached a mutual agreement to convert the management of Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder and Homewood Suites by Hilton Santa Fe-North to franchise,” Hilton said in a prepared statement. “Both hotels remain open and operational under their respective Hilton brands.”

Buffalo Thunder was Hilton’s first partnership with a Native American tribe, The New Mexican reported in 2008.

The change in management should not be apparent to guests, Allgeier said.

“The public will not notice a change,” he said. “There are the same uniforms and same people.”

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