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Three Hotels Defy Economy, Open in
 Downtown Long Beach, California

By Darcy Leigh Richardson, Grunion Gazette, Long Beach, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 7, 2009 - Downtown Long Beach is a destination for travelers attending conventions, visitors staying multiple nights for business engagements and conferences, and tourists who hope to explore what the city has to offer in shopping, dining and entertainment.

No matter their reason for visiting downtown, these out-of-towners all need a place to sleep. With the openings of the Avia Hotel and the Residence Inn by Marriott, and the completion of the Hotel Maya renovation this summer, more niches have been filled in the city's hospitality sector.

Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the new properties will benefit the city because with increased options for hotel stays near the Convention Center, more people will remain downtown and contribute to the city's tax base and revenues.

"All three are spectacular hotels that are very different and appeal to different types of travelers," Goodling said. "We have as many hotels as is demanded at the moment by the market. In the future, we could probably use another three-star hotel close to the Convention Center with around 150 to 170 rooms."

Goodling said conventions attract visitors of all ages to downtown, and each of the hotels offers something unique. For example, the Residence Inn offers extended stays and will be the first hotel offering that type of option in the area.

The Avia Hotel is the first luxury boutique hotel built from the ground up in Long Beach, Goodling said. The Hotel Maya, the property that used to be the Coast Hotel, has undergone an extensive $20 million renovation offering creative event and meeting spaces that Goodling said would attract corporations looking for conference space in a resort-style setting.

"There is some concern (about hotel occupancy rates) in the short term because of the economy," Goodling said. "But these hotels are adding to what we're selling as a package for our city. We are fortunate to be in a position where we can expand and add to the vibrancy of downtown."

Ken Dickson, general manager of the Avia Hotel, said the $42 million construction of the 92,000-square-foot building began approximately 16 months ago at 285 Bay St. With 138 guest rooms, a rooftop pool, and breakfast that includes a barista service or a buffet, the hotel's opening on Friday was highly anticipated. Occupancy rates are increasing daily, Dickson said.

"The hotel's design is all about its location here in Long Beach," Dickson said. "We recognize that the climate here is a major asset, so there are alfresco spaces throughout the hotel and window walls that open to the outside so you feel that you are on the beach."

Dickson said the Avia is in the boutique hotel category, but that does not mean it is just a small property. Instead, the hotel aims to be unique and personalize guest experiences.

"At Avia, we aim to be gracious hosts, and provide outstanding service," Dickson said. "And the means for our guests to truly discover Long Beach."

The Hotel Maya, 700 Queensway Dr., also is categorized as a boutique hotel and is managed by Joie de Vivre. The Mayan-inspired design of the five buildings' interiors is due to the fact that Long Beach has a strong Latin American community and each Joie de Vivre property is unique to the city where it is located, said Carla Dispalatro, director of sales at the Hotel Maya.

The 11-acre waterfront property was occupied by guests during the renovation, which began Nov. 1. The 197 guest rooms are surrounded by tropical flowers and more than 400 palm trees.

"The Hotel Maya is a resort-like destination at an affordable price," Dispalatro said. "We wanted to create the feel of Latin America locally so those wanting the experience would not have to pay the high cost of travel. We have a lot of Long Beach residents coming over and they are amazed at what the hotel has transformed into."

The Hotel Maya grand opening will be next month, but its rooms currently are available for overnight stays. Its restaurant, Fuego, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily with a festive outdoor brunch on Sundays.

The Residence Inn by Marriott has been taking advantage of its waterfront location at 600 Queensway Dr. since its soft opening on May 22. Kyle Kloetzly, sales coordinator at the Residence Inn, said the time between the soft opening and the hotel's grand opening Aug. 20 has permitted staff to become familiar with daily operations and customer service requirements.

The Residence Inn features 178 guest rooms -- all with full kitchens -- that are available for extended stays, although Kloetzly said the hotel has been taking advantage of the numerous events downtown during the weekends this summer.

"Our occupancy rate has been steady and a few weekends have almost been sold out," Kloetzly said. "We have a beautiful pool alongside the water, and there is a barbecue area, and plenty of patio space."

The Residence Inn offers high-speed Internet access and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. Pets are allowed.

For additional information about any of these hotels, visit www.visitlongbeach.com.

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To see more of the Grunion Gazette or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.gazettes.com/.

Copyright (c) 2009, Grunion Gazette, Long Beach, Calif.

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