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Slim Growth in Orange County, California Hotel Room Count; 
Hoteliers Expecting a Very Strong Summer
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By andi Cain - Orange County Business Journal Staff 
May 2006
 
  • Just One Debut on Top Hotels List; 20,874 Rooms at OC’s Biggest
  • Orange County’s largest hotels have kept a firm grip on their ranking among the top 50 hotels during the past three years.
Only one new hotel cracked the list this year: the 252-room Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort/Convention Center, which opened in March. The list ranks the county’s largest hotels by number of rooms. 

The total number of rooms on this week’s Business Journal list was 20,874, up 1% from last year. Total employment also grew at a 1% clip to 14,530, including estimates. 

“We’ve had excellent feedback … and sold out many nights so far,” said Debbie Plueger, director of sales at the Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim. 
 
The new Doubletree, which debuted at No. 47, bumped the 238-room Wyndham Hotel Orange County in Costa Mesa off the list. 

In March, The Wyndham was bought by an affiliate of Newport Beach-based Makar Properties LLC, which owns the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa.

Anaheim is home to 17 hotels on the list, including seven of the top 10. They account for 42% of the rooms and 35% of the jobs on the list. Newport Beach ranks second with 11% of rooms and 10% of workers.

The 26 hotels that reported rates for 2005 averaged 75% occupancy, with five hotels reporting levels of 80% or more. That’s up from an average of 70% in 2004. 

Hotel managers expect to post even better results this year.

“Summer is looking very strong,” said William Cleaver, director of sales at Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel across from Disneyland. “We’re in the last throes of (Disney’s) 50th anniversary and expect to be up 5% to 10% from the past few years.”

At No. 1 Hilton Anaheim—the county’s largest hotel with 1,572 rooms—director of sales Edd Karlan said summer bookings are 5% ahead of last year.

High occupancy meant higher daily rates for hoteliers. Countywide average daily rates last year were $123.36. 

For the 43 hotels on the list that reported starting rates, the average was $175. Without the six high-end resorts, the average dropped to $150.

Coastal resorts expect to stay busy this year.

“We expect a robust summer,” said Hans Meissen, general manager of No. 33 The Island Hotel Newport Beach. Owner The Irvine Company took over management of the 295-room hotel during the past year. It formerly was a Four Seasons.

No. 18 St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point expects weekends to be sold out from June through September.

OC’s largest hotels have been adding extras.

Sixteen hotels on the list have full-service spas, up from 10 a year ago. Forty-three have fitness centers. All but one of the hotels offers wireless Internet connections. 

About a third of the hotels on the list have completed or plan to do renovations.

The biggest of those was the $65 million makeover of No. 7 Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa.

“Newport Beach is the hallmark for new directions for Marriott,” said Michael Jannini, executive vice president and general manager of brand management for Marriott International.

No. 19 Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel completed its $40 million renovation that added a spa and restaurant, 162, which overlooks the ocean.

The Hilton Anaheim is set to begin a $57 million renovation that will remake the meeting space this year, the lobby next year and rooms later.

The former Coast Hotel is set to officially reopen this month as the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort after a $32 million renovation. The hotel is No. 9 on the list.

No. 4 Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa added a spa, Mandara, which opened in March.

Other hotels that completed renovations are No. 10 Sheraton Anaheim Hotel, No. 25 Anabella Hotel, No. 26 Radisson Hotel Newport Beach and No. 36 Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport. 

No. 16 Fairmont Newport Beach, the former Sutton Place that was bought by San Clemente-based Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc. last year, hopes to complete its renovation this summer. The Island Hotel is revamping its landscaping and pool areas.

The St. Regis and No. 22 Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa opened new restaurants. 

No. 20 Westin South Coast Plaza, No. 24 Anaheim Marriott Suites and No. 29 Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Anaheim and are set to begin various renovations this year.

New Owners

Several hotels on the list changed hands during the past year.

No. 13 Irvine Marriott and the Hilton Irvine now are owned by Alcor Acquisitions, an affiliate of Blackstone Group LP, a New York-based private equity group that bought previous owner Meristar Hospitality. 

No. 27 Crowne Plaza Irvine was part of a sale of several hotels by Irving, Texas-based FelCor Lodging Trust to Hospitality Properties Trust of Newton, Mass.

No. 20 Westin South Coast Plaza was part of a portfolio of hotels bought by Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., an affiliate of Washington, D.C.-based Marriott International Inc., from Pittsburgh-based Secon Properties.

More changes are in store.

Last month, Chicago-based Strategic Hotel Capital LLC put the 393-room Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel on the block as part of a plan to sell off its holdings. The asking price reportedly is about $400 million.

No. 44 Holiday Inn Anaheim Palms Resort owner New Age Hospitality said it was seeking a buyer for the 253-room hotel. And last week a third round of bids opened for No. 34 Embassy Suites Irvine, with an asking price of about $60 million. 

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Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.
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Contact:

Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA
949-497-2680
sdcain31@cox.net

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Also See: California's Orange County 50 Largest Hotels Report a 2% Growth in Meeting Space in 2004, Mainly a Result of Renovations, No New Hotels / Sandi Cain / January 2005
No Debuts and a Few Less Rooms Mark Hotel Scene in Orange Country, California / Sandi Cain / May 2005
Orange County’s 50 Largest Hotels with Meeting Rooms Report 3% Jump in Space in 2003 / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Total Hotel Room Count and Total Hotel Employment in 2004 Little Changed from Previous Year in Orange County, California / Sandi Cain / August 2004

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