Hotel Online  Special Report

Two California Coastal Resorts, Newport Beach Marriott
and Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Spending $100 million
on Renovations


By Sandi Cain, November 2004

Host Marriott Corp. is spending $60 million to spruce up the Newport Beach Marriott in Fashion Island. Host Marriott, a real estate investment trust, owns the 29-year-old hotel managed by Marriott International Inc., both of Bethesda, Md.

Down the coast, the 20-year-old Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is in the midst of a $40 million makeover. Chicago-based Strategic Hotel Capital LLC, which owns the hotel, is funding the upgrades.

The sprucing up comes amid heightened competition for Orange County’s seaside hotels.

For the Ritz-Carlton, the 3-year-old St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point has emerged as a formidable rival for upscale travelers and meetings.

The Newport Beach Marriott is keeping up with Hyatt Newporter, which is nearing the end of a $13 million makeover and is renaming itself Hyatt Regency Newport Beach.

Down the road, both Newport Beach hotels face competition from the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa and the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, also in Surf City.

The spending in Newport Beach is the largest in Marriott history, according to Bill Gunderson, general manager of the Newport Beach Marriott.

The Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton are set to stay open as renovations are done in sections. Both plan to add spas in a bid to attract more business and vacationing travelers.

The first phase of the Newport Beach Marriott’s facelift is set to finish in January with remodeled rooms and hallways, and new central heating, air conditioning and elevators.

The hotel, one of OC’s oldest, started redoing its south tower in August. Come January, those remodeled rooms are set to keep the hotel going while the rest of the rooms and meeting space are renovated in the next year.

“We’ll sell the hotel like a Courtyard by Marriott,” Gunderson said, referring to Marriott’s business hotel brand that offers business amenities but little meeting space.

The topper: the hotel remodeling is set to add 20 new luxury suites overlooking Newport Harbor and the Pacific Ocean, as well as a new restaurant.

The entire project is set for completion a year from now to coincide with the hotel’s 30th anniversary. The hotel is slated to be renamed the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa.

Also in the works is a two-story spa, which the hotel plans to market to groups such as bridal parties, according to Gunderson.

“We had a record wedding season this year,” he said.

As for meeting space, the Marriott plans to add wireless Internet access and reconfigure some rooms so that all meeting space will be contiguous. A new sound system, power drops and sound walls also are planned.

Outdoors, one of the hotel’s three pools will be marked for adults-only. Plans call for converting a parking lot into an outdoor, ocean-view banquet area for up to 400 people.

Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
Down at the Ritz-Carlton, South County’s first coastal resort, renovation started in June with an expected completion date of this summer. The renovation—launched for the resort’s 20th anniversary—includes a spa and oceanfront gym.

“The idea is to bring our oceanfront location into the spa,” hotel spokeswoman Deanne French said.

Rooms also are being made over with new carpet, lights, drapes, furniture and 42-inch plasma TVs and DVD players.

The Dining Room, a perennial five-diamond restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, recently closed. The hotel plans to remake The Dining Room into an all-purpose restaurant. The four-diamond Club Grill & Bar remains open.

Guest room wings are set to be redone one at a time. Meeting rooms are expected to stay open during the work.

The upgrades come at a time when prospects for the hotel industry are looking up.

Occupancy so far this year at OC’s coastal hotels is 73%, up from 72% in late 2003.

Disney Redos

Walt Disney Co. officials like to say nothing ever really is complete at Disneyland. That goes for hotels, too.

Last spring, the Paradise Pier Hotel unveiled its new seaside look designed to match the Paradise Pier section of the California Adventure theme park, which the hotel overlooks.

The latest remake of the hotel includes extra touches geared to families, which Disney hopes to draw more of at California Adventure.

Twenty new Paradise Suites have two baths, a queen sofa bed, refrigerator and microwave and can house up to six people. The Presidential suites (all renamed after Southern California beaches) include oversize tubs, surround-sound stereo and a dining table for six guests.

Disney’s also selling the rooms as hospitality suites for groups.

Disney detail abounds: Mickey Mouse lifeguard lamps, themes from the neighboring amusement park woven in to the carpet and wallpaper, and surfboard-style room numbers.

At the outdoor pool, there’s a new waterslide dubbed “California Streamin’”—a play off California Adventure’s “California Screamin’” ride.

The Disneyland Hotel in September finished a renovation of its 50,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom and its exhibit space.

By mid-January, all guest rooms, meeting space and business centers are set to be wired for high-speed Internet connection. Wireless service will be available in business centers, pool areas and various lounges throughout the resort.

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.


Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA

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