Local Resorts Attain Industry’s Top Tier

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Los Angeles restaurant Ink's Chef Michael  Voltaggio at a Montage-hosted event last year.
Los Angeles restaurant Ink’s Chef Michael
Voltaggio at a Montage-hosted event last year.

Montage Laguna Beach, the 248-room resort that overlooks rock-lined coves and opened in 2003, earned its first five-star ranking from Forbes Travel Guide this week.

Nearby Dana Point’s St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa and Newport Beach’s Resort at Pelican Hill also received the five-star distinction, the guide announced.

“Montage Laguna Beach not only received the five star rating for its hotel but also five stars each for its spa and restaurants,” pointed out Judith Bijlani, president of Laguna’s Visitors & Conference Bureau. “Forbes selected Montage as one of just six properties in the country to be rated the ultimate in luxury travel; the only property in Orange County to achieve this distinction.”

With the coveted five-star bragging rights, hotel operators can set room rates as high as $700 a night and can expect better results marketing to prospective brides, conference event planners and high-end guests, said Alan X. Reay, president of Irvine’s Atlas Hospitality Group, which specializes in hotel property sales.

“Lots of people use Trip Advisor, but a certain traveling group will only go to a five-star,” Reay said.

“It’s a big credit to the region,” he added. “Hotel owners are not going to put the money into staff and services if it’s not in a location that justifies it,” Reay said, noting that check-ins at luxury hotels picked up in 2010 after a two-year hiatus. Revenue per room at Montage, Pelican and St. Regis climbed 25 to 30 percent in the past two years, he said.

“The city should be cheering this very loudly,” Reay said.

From all of Laguna’s 32 hotel properties, guests will tip in $9.2 million this year into the city budget in transient occupancy taxes (TOT) of 10 to 12 percent, the city’s second largest revenue stream after property taxes and ahead of sales tax revenue, the city’s finance director, Gavin Curran, pointed out. Montage guests alone contribute $3 million of the total.

“Any award they get, it’s absolutely beneficial to the city,” said Asst. City Manager Christa Johnson.

“In this case, not only are we optimistic that we will see an increase in TOT from the designation from travelers looking for a luxury experience but the increased exposure from a marketing standpoint is priceless,” said Bijlani. Just 4 percent of the town’s estimated 6 million annual visitors are hotel guests, according to bureau research in 2007.

Altogether, 76 hotels earned the five-star  distinction worldwide, including a dozen California hotels. Formerly known as the Mobil ranking, the Forbes guide sends inspectors to evaluate 500 standards in service and facilities to derive a score, says the Forbes site. Among U.S. cities, Beverly Hills and New York boast the most five-star ranked properties. The most unusually located in the state must be Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst, Calif., 16 miles south of Yosemite National Park.

Separately, Laguna Beach was recognized as a recipient of TripAdvisors top beaches awards, ranking ninth. The online site identified top beach spots around the world, based entirely on the reviews and opinions of TripAdvisor travelers.

Hawaii’s Ka’anapali Beach earned the top ranking, followed by two Florida beaches. For the complete list of 2013 Travelers’ Choice Beaches go to www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Beaches.

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