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Escondido, California Hoteliers Divided Over Whether to Welcome
 Four New Hotels Expected to Open in the Coming Years
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By Paul Eakins, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 24, 2007 - ESCONDIDO -- Hotel operators are divided over whether to welcome four new hotels expected to open in Escondido in the coming years or be concerned about the added competition.

The new hotels would increase the number of hotel and motel rooms within the city limits by about 53 percent, from 967 to 1,479, as part of city leaders' attempts to make Escondido a destination city.

"My feeling is, the more the merrier," Paul Walton, owner of the Castle Creek Inn Resort, Hotel and Spa located north of the city, said last week. "If Escondido wants to build more hotels, good. It's only more business for the region."

But Paul Fleek, assistant front desk manager at the Comfort Inn on West Valley Parkway, next to where a new Candlewood Suites hotel is planned, bemoaned having the extra competition squeezed in between his hotel and the nearby Holiday Inn Express.

"That's the last thing we need," Fleek said. "I think maybe Escondido could maybe support one or two other hotels, but if we're looking at three, four or five, that might be a little bit much. I don't think the market's there yet."

There are about 16 hotels, motels and resorts within the Escondido city limits, with 967 rooms, according to the San Diego North Convention and Visitors Bureau. Just outside the city limits are two resorts and a bed and breakfast that together total 641 rooms, 600 of which are in the well-known Welk Resort Center north of Escondido, according to the bureau.

The average occupancy for hotels in Escondido and other parts of northeast San Diego County was 71.5 percent in 2006, with an average nightly room rate of $98.69, according to the visitors bureau. An occupancy rate of more than 70 percent is considered to be good in the U.S. hotel industry, which had an average national occupancy rate of almost 69 percent in 2006.

Of the four incoming hotels, three have been approved by the City Council: A luxury 196-room Marriott hotel downtown between City Hall and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido; a 100-room Marriott hotel catering to business travelers on La Terraza Boulevard east of Interstate 15; and a 76-room Candlewood Suites hotel on West Valley Parkway just west of Interstate 15.

A new 140-room hotel also is expected as part of a planned expansion at the Westfield North County mall in southern Escondido, but that proposal is months away from going to the council for approval.

The new hotels are seen as part of city leaders' attempts to make Escondido a destination city largely though the revitalization of downtown. City officials hope to bring in business conventions and other events to the downtown Marriott, and the city is chipping in about $15.2 million for its construction.

Isabel Mera, the inn keeper at Zosa Ranch and Gardens Bed and Breakfast north of Escondido, said she isn't concerned about the inn being affected by the new hotels because many bed and breakfast clients specifically seek out the inns.

"It does concern us to some extent, but in the big picture it doesn't," Mera said. Bed and breakfasts "are a unique touch."

However, she also said four new hotels may be overkill, especially with the proposed mall hotel.

"I can understand the hotel by City Hall," Mera said. "They really do need a nice hotel in Escondido. Now (with the other hotels) I think they're just going crazy."

Mike Kelley, manager at the Holiday Inn Express, said more hotels should just mean more people coming to the area.

"The (downtown) Marriott, that can do nothing but help us," Kelley said, noting his hotel already attracts customers who come to visit San Marcos or the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park east of Escondido.

Officials involved in the city's business and tourism also were optimistic Monday about the new hotels' effects on the city.

"I'm hoping that there's enough business to do it all," Harvey Mitchell, executive director of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, said. "Escondido's becoming more of a destination place."

Cami Mattson, president and CEO of the convention and visitors bureau, said the upscale downtown Marriott hotel will fill an important niche with its higher level of service.

"That type of property opens up a whole new market segment for us that is not competitive but increases demand," Mattson said.

As for other incoming hotels, Mattson and Mitchell both said the new venues will just create a little healthy competition.

"I think if you're competitive and keep a product that is competitive ... then you'll be able to succeed," Mattson said.

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To see more of the North County Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.nctimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.

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