San Diego Business Journal

Hotel Del Coronado Celebrates 125th Birthday

Tourism: Iconic Hotel Is Major Tourist Draw By Lou Hirsh Monday, May 13, 2013
Experts say the historic Hotel del Coronado, which is marking its 125th anniversary this year, was instrumental in putting San Diego on the map as a national tourist destination.

Experts say the historic Hotel del Coronado, which is marking its 125th anniversary this year, was instrumental in putting San Diego on the map as a national tourist destination.

Centerpoint of Local Economy

The hotel grew up with the city of Coronado and remains a centerpoint of its economy. Todd Little, executive director of the Coronado Tourism Improvement District, said Hotel del Coronado last year accounted for about 60 percent of the $517,000 in collections generated by a half-percent assessment on room rates at the city’s large hotels.

The assessment goes directly to local tourism promotion and is on top of the city’s 10 percent transient occupancy tax collected from all hotels. Little said Hotel del Coronado continues to be a big driver of activity in the city’s central business district, as important in attracting day-trip visitors from around Southern California as it is to bringing in out-of-state tourists for longer stays.

“It’s certainly part of the fabric of the larger business community, and a lot of what happens here wouldn’t be possible without the Hotel del Coronado,” he said.

The hotel’s most recent ownership change, credited with helping it through the latest tourism downturn, came in 2011, when a unit of New York investment firm Blackstone Group backed a $425 million recapitalization of the property’s debt and assumed a 60 percent ownership stake. Existing owner Strategic Hotels of Chicago took a 34.3 percent stake, and KSL Resorts, the hotel’s operator, remained a limited partner with a 5.7 percent stake.

History With Modern Conveniences

Operators since 2010 have invested in a multimillion-dollar series of phased-in renovations and updates while the property stayed open for business. Brown said work has been completed in meeting rooms and other open spaces, and is currently in progress in the hotel’s lobby and restaurant, expected to be completed before year’s end.

The hotel has been careful to preserve elements of the past while meeting modern traveler demands, recently adding room amenities like Wi-Fi and brighter bedside reading lamps to its rooms and updating its restaurant menus to serve changing tastes and dietary needs. “People want a sense of the history, but they also want some modern conveniences,” Brown said.

Donovan said the 1969 opening of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge proved crucial to the long-term survival of Hotel del Coronado, since it not only eased driver access to Coronado but also allowed The Del to share directly in the uptick in hotel demand after the San Diego Convention Center opened 20 years later.

Many of those convention-goers have made Hotel del Coronado a must-see stop.

“There are so few places left that are iconic — like the White House or the Empire State Building — where people look at the picture and know exactly where it is,” Donovan said. “The Hotel Del is one of those places.”

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