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More Growth Seen : Hilton Tops Marriott in Area Hotel Rooms

Times Staff Writer

With the opening of the $70-million Irvine Hilton Monday--the second Hilton to land in Orange County in the past year--Hilton Hotels Corp. has edged out Marriott Corp. as the county’s largest major hotel operator.

Just two years ago, Hilton ranked as an also-ran in Orange County, operating only one property--the 500-room Hilton at the Park on Harbor Boulevard near Disneyland. Hilton has since sold that property, but in the past 13 months, Hilton has flooded central Orange County with 1,600 rooms at the Anaheim Hilton by the Anaheim Convention Center and the 550-room, 14-story Irvine Hilton. Close behind, Marriott Corp. has a combined 1,923 rooms at its three locations in Anaheim, Newport Beach and Irvine.

More Growth Seen

Even with an emerging glut of first-class hotels in the county, executives from Hilton and Marriott say there is room for more growth up ahead. Hilton is investigating development of an ocean-side resort that would be built by the Irvine Co., the developer of the Irvine Hilton. And under a $38-million project, an additional 226 rooms are being added to Marriott’s Newport Beach facility along with a health club and a 574-space underground parking structure that was just completed.

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“At the moment, the number of hotel rooms in Orange County may be ahead of demand,” said Barron Hilton, in an interview before a ribbon-cutting ceremony, “but eventually demand will catch up and more will be needed.” The Irvine Hilton--which Barron Hilton called one of the chain’s “flagship hotels"--is one of 15 new Hilton hotels on tap for 1985. Hilton’s international room count will jump past the 100,000 mark this year, Hilton said.

For years, Barron Hilton said, “Hilton has wanted to be more strongly identified with Orange County.”

Carl T. Mottek, president of Hilton Hotels Division, said that the Irvine project would be a local “resort-type” property near the ocean. Such a facility could be part of the $300-million package of up to four hotels that Irvine Co. is studying for the Pelican Bay area south of Corona del Mar. The Coastal Commission is reviewing the project and is expected to release findings within six months.

Irvine Co. Studying Plans

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The Irvine Co. continues to study plans for up to eight new Orange County hotels with a combined 3,000 rooms. Its lavish, $60-million Four Seasons Hotel is scheduled to open next year at Newport Center. A trio of Irvine Co. hotels totaling 1,200 rooms is being studied for the Irvine Center area near the juncture of the San Diego and Santa Ana freeways, said Sam Van Landingham, vice president of office and hotel development.

Because of its early summer opening, the Irvine Hilton is expected to suffer occupancy problems similar to those that plagued its sister hotel, the Anaheim Hilton, last summer. Summer is a notoriously slow season for hotels dependent on convention and business traffic. “But once a hotel is finished you have to open it,” said Hilmar Rosenast, Hilton’s senior vice president for the Western region. Executives expect that more than half of the Irvine Hilton’s rooms could sit empty during July and August.

But in an attempt “to get people in here”, the hotel will offer summer rates of $85 for single and double rooms that normally go for up to $145, said Dennis Clark, general manager of the hotel that employs 350.

The competition has not ignored the new Hilton. Two weeks ago, the 504-room Irvine Marriott, across the street from the new Hilton, ran a full-page advertisement in local newspapers that coincided with the Hilton’s opening. The ad listed 400 local corporations that had used the Marriott’s facilities since it opened two years ago, and thanked the companies for their business.

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“We wanted to convey the message that the Hilton may have opened, but we’ve been serving the community for two years,” said Ed Proenza, marketing director at the Irvine Marriott. He said rate structures at the Marriott will not be immediately affected by the Hilton, although the Marriott will continue to run weekend packages that offer single and double rooms for $45 per night--a savings of up to $100 per night off weekday rates.


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