The Orange County Register
By Hannah Madans
The hotel was built in 1986 by the Irvine Co. and managed by Four Seasons until Irvine Co., which owns it, took over the management 10 years ago.
“We continue to do renovations because we are always reinvesting in our properties and seek to be the best and make sure we are relevant to what our customers needs are,” said Ralph Grippo, president of Irvine Co.’s resort division.
Grippo said the hotel now has occupancy rates of more than 80 percent and has had positive customer feedback since the renovations.
Island Hotel is not the only Irvine Co. resort property to get a facelift. Late last year, Hotel Irvine underwent a complete overhaul to become a trendy lifestyle hotel.
The renovations mark a trend in the hospitality industry, which is concentrating on renovating aging properties rather than building new ones. In 2014, 30 hotels were purchased in Orange County, more than double the 14 transactions registered the year before, according to Atlas Hospitality Group, an Irvine-based real estate firm that specializes in hotels.
Another hotel undergoing significant change is the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, which shed its parent, Sheraton, last week amid a $6 million renovation. The upgrades include enchanted forest backdrops, new carpeting and fantasy bunk beds.
Hotel proprietors, including Irvine Co., are striving to keep rooms full and visitors happy by renovating their properties in the hope of enhancing their customers’ experience.
Island Hotel’s general manager, Gerard Widder, said his staff “works hard to know more about our guests.”
Their quest for customer satisfaction starts with reservations. Guests can choose the items they want in their rooms and mini bars before arriving. The hotel also asks guests the reason for their visit, names and ages of children, and does things like write kids’ names on mirrors, which “they get a kick out of,” Widder said.
The hotel also keeps an eye on social media. If a patron tweets that he is going to #IslandHotel for his birthday, the staff can do something to help him celebrate it.
Widder said the renovations have led to staff increases at Oak Grill, the hotel’s restaurant, and its Aqua Lounge, a bar area.
Grippo said Hotel Irvine, which is located among towering office complexes near John Wayne Airport, was transformed to appeal to a broader customer base. Island Hotel, on the same circle drive as Fashion Island, added more social events and made the hotel a destination spot that encompasses both the luxurious and the casual.
“A lot of chains don’t adjust to where they are. This is a very Newport Beach hotel,” Grippo said. “There is a luxury element, but there is still a casual environment. Luxury for us is doing the details better than anybody.”