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Rebranded Resort Becomes OC’s First Waldorf Astoria

Debuting a new hotel looks a bit different this time around for George Munz, a former Ritz-Carlton executive tapped to open the first Waldorf Astoria property in Orange County.
Munz, whose 30-year hospitality career includes a decade-long leadership stint at the nearby Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, joined the 400-room Dana Point hotel in January during an internal rebranding that converted the Monarch Beach Resort into the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club.
The rebranding comes as the hospitality industry continues to be hammered by the pandemic, with business restrictions and safety concerns keeping travelers home.
Rather than a grand opening party and wide-scale marketing strategy, the opening of the Waldorf Astoria has been a bit more subdued.
“We are prioritizing safety first and foremost, making sure our employees and our customers are comfortable,” Munz said. “Instead of a grand opening party we hope we can host a big celebration next year at what will hopefully be a safer time for the larger community.”

Personalized Service
The Waldorf Astoria has seen some traffic from local or nearby guests, with occupancy levels in the low double-digits.
“That seems to be the case for all the resorts in the area,” said Munz, who added he’s taken advantage of the smaller guest pool “to create more personalized experiences and provide the service that the Waldorf Astoria is known for.”
“We’re making sure guests can’t wait to return,” Munz said.
Coastal hotels in Orange County have benefitted from stronger occupancy rates than other locations due to a small but steady market of staycationers.
“Our hotel guests all live within about an hour of the resort,” said Munz, who most recently served as general manager at the Ritz-Carlton Washington, D.C.
During his five-year stint there, he repositioned the hotel through a $12 million, two-year room and facilities renovation project, while maintaining a Five-Diamond rating, the hotel said.

Amenities
The Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach will employ about 550 people at full operation; that figure is currently closer to about 200, which Munz notes is currently higher than other area properties due to the hotel’s membership programs.
The 800,000-square-foot property has five different membership options that include access to fitness facilities, the Monarch Beach Golf Links and a private beach club.
The property also has 90,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and eight food and beverage venues, including Bourbon Steak, a Michael Mina restaurant.
Several of the venues include significant outdoor dining operations, currently allowed under the state’s color-coded tier system.  
“We have definitely noticed an uptick in business since the stay-at-home order was lifted in January,” Munz said.

2019 Record Sale
The new flag comes about a year after the sale of the Dana Point property, which traded hands at the end of 2019 in the largest-ever hotel sale in Orange County.
Ohana Real Estate Investors LLC bought the resort for nearly $500 million, or $1.25 million per key.
The Monarch buy marks a return to Orange County for the Redwood City-based investor, which previously owned the Montage Laguna Beach between 2009 and 2015.
The seller, KSL Resorts, also managed the hotel before Waldorf Astoria came on board.
The resort, once branded under the St. Regis flag, has been renovated several times in recent years, most notably undergoing a $40 million renovation in 2016.
The hotel’s new ownership will start a room renovation project later this year to tie into the rebranding, Munz said.

Joins LA 
In a market with no lack of competition—there’s dozens of nearby resorts and luxury boutique properties—Munz said the Waldorf Astoria stands out because of property amenities, service and access to a wide membership base through Hilton, which owns the brand.
This is the first Waldorf Astoria property to open in Orange County; the closest partner is the brand’s Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.
There are about 30 other locations in the portfolio.
“There’s been so much anticipation about this brand coming to Orange County, and we are excited to welcome guests to the hotel now and in the future as it becomes more safe to do so,” Munz said. 

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