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Competition Pushes Monterey, California Area Properties to
 Renovate and in Some Cases, Reinvent Themselves
By Marie Vasari, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 7, 2007 --Competition keeps pushing properties to renovate and update, to reinvest and, in some cases, reinvent themselves.

Seven Gables Inn, a quaint Victorian bed and breakfast in Pacific Grove, recently hired a new general manager who previously worked for the Ritz-Carlton company.

The personal attention and the homey touches owners Ed Flatley and his sister, Susan Flatley Wheelwright, have always offered still remain: escorting every guest to their front door when they check in, cookies and milk every evening, binoculars in each room to watch the waves roll in and out, and a handwritten note handwritten for guests celebrating special occasions such as anniversaries, honeymoons or birthdays.

And for rates of up to $505 per night, management knows that details matter: In addition to upgraded high-thread-count bed linens, each bed features both down and fiberfill pillows so guests can choose their preference.

"We pay very close attention to what the guests want," said Flatley, whose parents raised their family in the inn's main structure. "We try to meet their expectations without them asking."

In months when storm-related power outages are common, rooms are furnished with lanterns and flashlights, and preferences large and small are noted for return visits.

But their new general manager, Hartmut Ott, has brought competitive touches into the 1886 Victorian mansion and its six surrounding buildings: Wifi in every room, luxury bath amenities featuring

sea-inspired nutrients, soaps hand-made exclusively for the inn, and wine and cheese tastings on the premises led by representatives of local wineries.

The exclusive property isn't the only one in town upgrading. All across the Peninsula, lodgings are looking for ways to keep up with customer expectation.

"The burden is on you to make your property special," said John Haveles, general manager of the Horizon Inn and Ocean View Lodge in Carmel. "There is a pressure to maintain value and yet maintain quality. You can't maintain the hotel you were in 1965."

The Olympia Lodge and the Anton Inn, which features the work of contemporary artists in each of its rooms, both recently remodeled. The Sea Breeze is in the process of renovating, and Beachcomber Inn is enclosing its patios and enlarging its guest room.

The Monterey Marriott will spend $3 million in the next year to install LCD flat-panel TVs in each guest room, remodel Ferrantes Bayview, its 10th floor banquet facility, and to renovate the San Carlos Ballroom and meeting rooms.

The Hyatt Regency Monterey is in the process of a $40 million renovation that included the addition of a new restaurant and spa, upgraded guest rooms and eventually, a name change to the Hyatt Regency Monterey on Del Monte Golf Course Resort and Spa.

The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is pumping $4 million into an upgrade of its conference space, and a new restaurant and spa are among the changes as part of a $7 million renovation at Casa Munras.

And in Monterey, landscaping is the tip of the iceberg for the Mariposa Inn, where new carpeting and color schemes are in the works, and the traditional armoires are being replaced in favor of flat-screen plasmas hung on the wall.

The move, said general manager Joy Hoang Anderson, is more in keeping with guests' expectations these days.

Glassware and coffee mugs have replaced Styrofoam to be more environmentally friendly, an effort that extends to the cleaning products used. And Anderson, who spent more than a decade teaching hotel management and working as a management trainer, said customer service can't be overlooked.

She tells her staff that the expectations of a business traveler are likely to be different from a couple celebrating a 40th anniversary, and the only way to know is to ask.

"How do you know what to sell to them if you don't know what they need?" said Anderson. "You really have to get out there and sell your hotel," You can't just put your sign out there and expect them to come."

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To see more of the Monterey County Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.montereyherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

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