Irvine-based KSL Resorts is in expansion mode as hotel occupancy crawls back up and guests seek unique luxury experiences.
The full-service hospitality company is behind Orange County’s largest-ever hotel sale: the 400-room Monarch Beach Resort which traded at the end of 2019 for almost $500 million, or $1.2 million per key.
It hasn’t been involved in any local deals since then, but it has joined the ranks of other OC-based hotel investors spending big elsewhere in the state, in Northern California.
Its most recent addition was the 449-room Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, acquired for north of $60 million in February.
The company joins that of Sunstone Hotel Investors, Pacific Hospitality Group and Gary Jabara among OC investors bullish on wine country hospitality deals.
KSL officials say they are looking to reinvest in the property and add amenities.
“We have typically been drawn to assets where there’s an opportunity for us to reinvest and become good stewards of their success going forward,” Chief Commercial Officer Kristie Goshow told the Business Journal.
The company now counts 38 hotels and resorts in its portfolio.
They include Hawaii-based Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, Cameron House in London and the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.
KSL plans to play up the vineyard setting in its refresh plans for the Silverado Resort, and will also incorporate fitness activities as part of a “slow tourism” approach, which is associated with wellness and sustainability practices.
The Silverado Resort is one of many properties that KSL has targeted for renovation plans; the firm is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades across its portfolio in the wake of the pandemic.
The Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina recently finished the first phase of an $88 million renovation that included technology and physical upgrades to the 1,053-room property’s 97,000 square feet of meeting space.
“We’re staying ahead of the curve of what people are going to be looking for,” Chief Financial Officer Claude Brock, a 24-year executive with KSL, told the Business Journal.
Each property under the KSL umbrella must offer a “sense of place” for guests, with authenticity a main goal, according to Brock.
“The consumer is now rebelling against the homogeneity. They are looking for uniqueness. So, we reinvest and reposition to make [the properties] as current as what the consumer’s looking for.”
The summer season inspired additions to various properties, including new attractions to the water park and outdoor area of the Camelback Resort in Tannersville, Pa. and the return of the equestrian program at San Diego’s Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
These refreshes are “to make sure the properties are relevant to the future,” for this generation and beyond, Goshow said.
KSL, which got its start in 2004 managing four properties, moved its headquarters to Irvine’s Boardwalk office campus on Jamboree Road in 2019.
The firm was previously based out of a La Quinta office after forming independently following its sale from KSL Capital Partners, before that firm relocated to Colorado.
The management entity then kicked off a search for a new headquarters, seeking a more central location as it scouted new acquisition opportunities and reinvested in its existing portfolio.
After considering more than 50 options, it landed on Irvine as its new hub, attracted to the location and talent pool.
“Attracting talent to Irvine has been a lot easier,” Brock said. “Irvine receives a warm response from talent.”
While significantly scaling back operations with the rest of the industry in March 2020, KSL was able to retain its entire team at the corporate office, which now counts 37 employees.
The hotel operator is now focusing on recruitment efforts as the brand looks to position itself as an employer of choice in the industry, and in OC.
That focus on talent is what brought Goshow to the company in July 2021.
“I was able to come to an organization that allows me to leverage my experience and the exposure I had to different cultures and different environments to improve hotels,” Goshow said.
She hopes to further the careers of other employees through KSL’s mentorship program that allows workers from all departments to move up and across the organization.
Along with its access to the local workforce, KSL is keeping an eye on local investment opportunities—specifically in Newport Beach—when it comes to expanding its footprint.
“We have proximity to great assets,” Goshow said.