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OC Hotels Complete Renovations, Gear Up for Summer

The region’s collection of hotels, making up around 23,100 rooms in the area, are entering summer with a series of renovations completed, a few name changes and new restaurants on the horizon.

Hyatt Regency Irvine, formerly Hotel Irvine, returns to this year’s Business Journal annual list ranked at No. 9 with a new total of 516 rooms due to a rearranging of guest rooms to build new types of suites. The property reopened for the first time late last year since the previous owner Irvine Co. shuttered its doors in 2020.

Now all the rooms are open for booking with a newly opened pool and a new restaurant set to open in late summer called Warehouse 72.

The Irvine Marriott across the freeway is also renovating its outdoor spaces to include a new terrace, poolside amenities and a 23×11.5 large screen, unveiling in August.

Closer to the coast, Huntington Beach’s Paséa Hotel & Spa opened its new signature restaurant Lōrea this month featuring a land-to-sea-driven menu led by Executive Chef Scott Rackliff.

Farther inland, the renamed Knott’s Hotel in Buena Park finished its renovations in May and rethemed its former restaurant into Thirty Acres Kitchen, named after the original piece of land the Knott family purchased.

“I think what’s evolved over the years is that [our parent company] Cedar Fair has realized that hotels are very important in trying to bring people to the park,” General Manager Don Prescott told the Business Journal.

The Disneyland Hotel caused a stir on the list after adding a 344-room vacation club tower called The Villas last September. The property became the second-largest hotel in the county by room count, rising from 973 keys to 1,317 and surpassing the 1,030-room Anaheim Marriott.

The Disneyland Resort’s renovation of its Paradise Pier Hotel into its first fully Pixar Animation Studios-themed property, now called Pixar Place Hotel, wrapped up in January and added a 6,500-square-foot Great Maple restaurant.

Hilton Anaheim remains the largest hotel in OC with 1,574 rooms and 900 employees. Sergio Bocci will soon mark his first year as the property’s general manager.

“The state of the hospitality business is robust and dynamic, as Orange County as a destination has always been a hot market for domestic and international travel, with a steady influx of visitors eager to experience the magic of Disneyland, events at the Anaheim Convention Center and the diverse cultural attractions that our county offers,” he told the Business Journal.

“We also just celebrated our 40-year anniversary this month and, on the heels of that milestone, will have exciting news about the future of Hilton Anaheim to share soon,” he added.

Renovations Galore

Hotel operator Pacific Hospitality Group decided to follow last year’s local trends with a renovation of its own.

The DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Ana-Orange County Airport is now the 254-room Hotel Zessa Santa Ana following a $12 million renovation ended in April. It remains a DoubleTree by Hilton operation. Hotel Zessa also revamped its restaurant into Citra Bar & Kitchen led by Chef Michele Bailey (see story, page 33).

Following the transformations of previous Irvine Co. properties Pendry and Vea Newport Beach, the local real estate developer is leaving hospitality management behind with Marriott International Inc. becoming the new management company of The Resort at Pelican Hill starting in July.

Irvine Co. will remain as owner of the 322-room Newport Coast hotel, which is set to become a St. Regis later. Marriott (Nasdaq: MAR) plans to retain a majority of the resort’s employees, an estimated 100, through the transition.

Westin Anaheim Growth

This year’s 53 hotels on the Business Journal list of hotels employ over 13,000 people in the region, according to Business Journal data.

The Westin Anaheim Resort saw a 25% increase in employees compared to last year, reaching 500 in total.

“We have added staff to ensure we continue to deliver first class, personalized service throughout the hotel and in all our seven different restaurants and bars,” General Manager Nicholas Price said. “There has also been an increase in meetings and events at our hotel, since we’ve added our outdoor event lawn, the Emerald Garden.”

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa added Jon Benson as general manager in April. He had previously worked as director of food and beverage at the 519-room property leading the opening of the resort’s Watertable restaurant 10 years ago.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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