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Hotel’s Manager Hopes Stars Align Over Del Mar

Tom Voss, the resident manager of the Grand Del Mar, is seeing stars , five to be precise.

In announcing the property’s development this spring, its owner, Doug Manchester, who heads Manchester Resorts, said the Grand Del Mar would be San Diego’s first Five-Star hotel.

While that might sound like a rather audacious statement, it isn’t, said Voss, 48. That’s the business plan for the 260-room hotel, which is scheduled to open in December 2006. And his job is to make sure that it merits the top rating.

After serving a year as resident manager of the 1,625-room Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in Downtown, Voss was promoted this spring to the post of managing director for Manchester Resorts and also to resident manager of the Grand Del Mar.

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Hotels that receive Mobil Travel Guide’s Five-Star rating were built and maintained to be luxurious. Their employees continually provide a level of service that guests who stay in that class of property expect and are willing to pay for, he said.

Rates for Grand Del Mar’s 610-square-foot guest rooms will be set at $360 a night and run as high as $3,000 for master suites with 3,000 square feet of space.

The trick to operating a Five-Star resort-style property in the midst of an 18-hole course in laid-back San Diego, Voss said, will be to make sure “it’s not stuffy.”

“Many Five-Star hotels tend to be uptight,” Voss said. “That’s not what we want. We want the Grand Del Mar to be a relaxing environment. We will make arrangements for people’s entertainment, golf, spa treatments and rental cars.

“We’ll announce their arrival at the gate, and there will be somebody at the front door to meet and escort them to their rooms. I will be there to check on things. My presence will be known. But I don’t want to be in their face every 10 minutes, as I’ve noticed managers at some Five-Star properties have a habit of doing.”

A native of Hamburg, Germany, Voss earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel business administration from the University of Kiel, in Kiel, Germany, and completed graduate studies in hotel administration at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. His resume shows that he has more than 25 years of experience.

Among the six California hotels to receive the coveted Five-Star rating this year, four are in Southern California: the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Peninsula, and Raffles L’Ermitage are all in Beverly Hills; the Hotel Bel-Air is in Los Angeles.

San Diego has two hotels , the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad and the Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla that were accorded Four-Star ratings for 2005 and both received AAA Five-Diamond ratings. Yet as Voss and other hoteliers point out, stars , in multiples of five , are harder to come by than diamonds.

The key to offering good service and top quality food at hotel eateries is having the “right team” on board, Voss said. That’s why he planned to interview a local chef late in the evening on a recent Friday after spending the day overseeing various aspects of construction.

He said he plans to look in and outside of San Diego to find “the right artistic talent” to head the property’s two main restaurants , one in the hotel and the other in the clubhouse.

But since the existing 14,000-square-foot clubhouse is undergoing an expansion that will take it to nearly 45,000 square feet, Voss said he wants to get a chef committed to taking the job before it opens in April. Equally important, he added, is hiring a hotel engineer to come on board during construction.

“If you’re early, you’re on time,” is his philosophy of doing business, he said. “If you’re on time, you’re late.”

In the big picture, plans for the Spanish-style resort have been laid out. Renderings, designs, material swatches, color boards and photographs depicting the architecture, furnishings, ironwork, fountains, moldings and gardens of Old World villas line all four walls of an office in the clubhouse.

Great care is being taken to ensure that essential details that are hallmarks of luxury resorts are included, such as oversized beds, bathtubs, closets, separate dressing rooms with benches and full-sized mirrors, double sinks and noiseless air conditioning systems.

Yet having a hotel engineer on board before its completion would ensure that there are no glitches.

“It’s certainly nice to be working out of a house instead of a trailer during construction,” he said as he checked his watch and excused himself to interview the prospective chef.

The stucco, two-story, 4,000-square-foot structure with a formal dining room, den, fireplace, sweeping staircase and two-car garage, known as the “summer house” currently serves as Voss’ office. It’s one of several that were built on the perimeter of the property formerly known as the Del Mar National Golf Club.

According to Perry Dealy, the executive vice president of Manchester Financial Group Inc., the construction tab for the entire project, including $90 million to build a 40-unit “fractional-ownership” townhome complex adjacent to the hotel, is expected to be $250 million. A fractional ownership means that buyers own a deed share of the residential vacation properties.

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Hotel Revenues Keep Climbing:

While the amount of revenue U.S. hoteliers took in from the rooms they rented during a 28-day period ending June 4, rose 9 percent on average, the rate for San Diego’s hotels was up by 18.7 percent to an average $124.20 per room, compared to the same timeframe last year. The statistic from Tennessee-based Smith Travel Research placed San Diego in the upper third of the nation’s top 25 destinations.

In first place was New York City, with an average revenue rate of $185.10, an increase of 24.9 percent. Atlanta was second with $49.88, up 23.6 percent, while Seattle was third with a 23.4 percent hike to $75.51.

San Diego’s hotels, which ranked seventh with respect to the average amount of revenue they brought in, had an occupancy rate of 74.4 percent during the 28-day period , up 4.2 percent from the like year-ago period. Their average daily room rate of $124.20 was up by 14 percent.

Hotels in Washington, D.C., had the highest occupancy rate among the top 25 during the 28 days ended June 4: 79.6 percent.


Send hospitality and tourism news to Connie Lewis via fax at (858) 571-3628, or by e-mail to clewis@sdbj.com. She may also be reached by phone at (858) 277-6359.

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