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Hospitality & Tourism Industry And Meeting Sites Guide

Also Inside: • Semi-annual Update On The Hospitality & Tourism Industry • Hotel GMs Expect Stronger Numbers In 2013 • CVB’s Rodriguez Builds Awareness Of Long Beach As A Destination City • An Ear To The Ground: Spirit Cruises’ Jayme Wilson


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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

Long Beach Business Journal 3

Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville

Long Beach Convention And Tourism Industry Pushing Forward Despite Slow Recovery, New Economic Threats ■ By JOSHUA H. SILAVENT Staff Writer here are many lessons to be learned from the economic recession and painfully slow recovery, not the least of which is that good times never last forever – and bad times can last longer than expected. The convention and tourism industry, which boomed for so many years in places like New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and seemingly everywhere in between, suffered huge losses as Americans watched their discretionary income dry up and spending habits sober up. The service and hospitality industry began to see the impact of the fiscal shocks right away. People are quick to pull back on leisure purchases when times get tough. They travel less, eat out less, shop less – in general, they do more with less. The same is true when businesses feel the pinch. They scale back operations, nix corporate conferences, cut payrolls – in general, they do more with less.

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And this means that hotels, convention centers and tourist destinations pay the price. In Los Angeles County, employment in the industry peaked in the summer of 2007, but had shed tens of thousands of jobs by January 2010. But that was the low point and things have been heading in the right direction since. “It’s definitely improved quite a bit from where it was during the recession,” said Kim Ritter, an economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. Of course, it’s not as if the region had to remake itself. Ritter said this recent growth spurt, which has now recovered all the jobs lost in the industry during the recession and then some, is based on the same strong fundamentals that has made Southern California a hotspot for decades: worldclass cultural and entertainment options. Whether it’s international visitors, corporate travelers or simply locals out for a night on the town, tourism is rebounding in a way few could have hoped for just two years ago. “What we’re seeing is that people are

Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville

more sure of their employment and income prospects, so they’re more willing to go on vacation, take longer vacations and spend a little bit more money,” Ritter said. It’s not just anecdotal evidence that foretells of a continued recovery in the convention and tourism market. The 2013 Southern California Lodging Forecast reports that occupancy rates in Los Angeles County reached 77.7 percent this year. This figure is near a historic peak, said Bruce Baltin, senior vice president at Colliers PKF Consulting in Los Angeles, which prepared the forecast. Average daily room rates also increased in 2012, jumping 5.2 percent to $171.54. Additionally, revenue per available room increased to $133.24 in 2012, which is 8.9 percent higher than the previous year. Though Long Beach lags slightly behind, it is gaining ground. “Long Beach is getting close, but they’re not quite there yet as far as achieving those occupancy rates,” Ritter said. These gains, however, are facing a new recessionary threat: the colloquially known “fiscal cliff.” Unless Congress acts, a

potentially volatile mix of tax increases and spending cuts could hit the American economy just as the New Year begins: the end of the Bush-era tax cuts, the loss of the payroll tax cut for workers, $100 billion in spending cuts next year alone (known as sequestration), a reduction of unemployment benefits and the elimination of some deductions, such as the mortgage debt tax relief. Moreover, despite the fact that the national unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in November, California lagged well behind. In October (the last month for which data was available prior to press deadline), Long Beach had a jobless rate of 11.4 percent while Los Angeles County was at 10.3 percent and the state at 10.1 percent. Baltin said that while trend lines remain positive for 2013, other caveats exist. For example, while occupancy rates have bounced back, profitability remains on the mend. Expenses are simply increasing at a faster clip than revenues, he said. Still, Baltin said he expects to see a (Please Continue To Next Page)


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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY 4 Long Beach Business Journal

December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

(Continued From Previous Page)

Steve Goodling, left, president and CEO of the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, has positioned the city as a major destination for conventions and trade shows. “We believe we’ll continue to be successful in bringing new business to Long Beach and in retaining the existing business by having them come back on a rotational cycle,” he said. Charlie Beirne, right, general manager of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, said city officials work together to make Long Beach an attractive place to visit. “We may not always agree initially, but collectively, as a team, we find ways to make it work for the client,” he said. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

continued increase in international travelers to the region as local convention and tourism bureaus push to “really capitalize on whatever opportunities exist.” In addition, Southern California remains an affordable, easily accessible destination for American travelers.

Conventions, Trade Shows, Concerts And More n many ways, the Long Beach convention and tourism industry is building upon recent successes. As occupancy rates improve, so too does the catalogue of offerings. “Everything is about deliverables,” said Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). For example, upgrades at the Long Beach Convention Center and Long Beach Arena reflect the city’s growing optimism about attracting new trade shows, conventions and conferences. And this confidence is not just wishful thinking. For example, hotel bed tax revenue increased $600,000 in 2012, for a total of $17.6 million. Half this money goes into the city’s general fund to support critical public safety and community services. The other half is pumped back into marketing the city as a destination for one and all. The general hospitality sector has an estimated $300 million annual economic impact in Long Beach, but it’s not just chance or good luck that makes the city stand apart from competitors like Los Angeles, cities in Orange County or other

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destinations along the West Coast and across the nation. The local CVB sets itself apart by involving the mayor, the chief of police, the airport director, hotel general managers and other officials in its sales missions. “Here in Long Beach, it’s all about how we can make it work,” Goodling said. “That is not common in other cities.” This kind of engagement is at the core of the CVB’s work. Goodling said Long Beach is unique because it remains small enough to involve so many, yet it’s big enough to catch people’s attention.

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This helps explain why the TED conferences do so well here, or why the American Correctional Association chose to come here this year, or why the National Association of Counties has signed on to visit in 2016, bringing with it an estimated economic impact of $2.6 million. “We may not always agree initially, but collectively, as a team, we find ways to make it work for the client,” said Charlie Beirne, general manager of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. When others were cutting back and look-

ing for ways to merely survive, the local CVB was investing in renovations and upgrades that help set Long Beach apart. “We invested when everyone else wasn’t investing,” Goodling said. For example, $1.7 million was pumped into a LED lighting project that now showcases the fountains and plaza area outside the convention center. And $7 million is being pumped into making the 50-year-old Long Beach Arena a state-of-the-art entertainment space for concerts, banquets and conferences. “This arena’s going to be the


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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013 only public space of its type anywhere in the U.S. . . . because it’s so unique in its design and concept,” Goodling said. The arena, which has a capacity of 13,000, can be modified to accommodate a 5,000-person audience, transformed into a fashion show space or made into a ballroom. This customization makes it a huge attraction for higher-end clients, Beirne said. The arena’s makeover is set for completion in August. “It was definitely the missing link,” said Iris Himert, senior vice president of sales at the CVB. Goodling said the CVB would focus on promoting its existing spaces in 2013, and he expects the positive momentum to continue. Familiarization tours and press trips will continue to be a priority as part of the CVB’s mission to educate and raise awareness about the many things Long Beach offers – from its beaches to its harbor waterfront, from fine dining and shopping to entertainment and sports. “We believe we’ll continue to be successful in bringing new business to Long Beach and in retaining the existing business by having them come back on a rotational cycle,” Goodling said. Major conventions already booked for 2013 include the American Astronomical Society, Association for Institutional Research, LRP Publications, TED, Solid Waste Association of North America, Applied Power Electronics Conference and Nerium. “Downtown Long Beach only continues to improve as a destination,” Goodling said. It would be easy for the city to rest on

Long Beach Business Journal 5 its laurels, congratulate itself for recent successes and sit back and count the money. But Goodling is cautious not to get too comfortable. “The challenge for Long Beach is to continue to not lose focus,” he said. “You have to tend to it to keep it competitive.”

Attractions: From The Marina To The Living Museum he Aquarium of the Pacific has truly become a centerpiece of Long Beach. It is a great economic engine for the city while simultaneously existing as a cultural icon. “Great cities have great cultural institutions,” said Jerry Schubel, president and CEO of the Aquarium. The payoff can be seen in increased attendance and sales. “2012 has been a fabulous year in terms of attendance, in terms of revenue, in terms of new programs, the completion of new projects like the penguin exhibit, breaking ground for retail out front,” Schubel said. “So it has really been a defining year in the brief history of the Aquarium of the Pacific.” Membership has now surpassed 100,000, a 20 percent jump over last year, and retail sales have posted strong gains, jumping about $250,000 over the last 12 months, Schubel said. Moreover, 1.5 million visitors will have toured the Aquarium in 2012, making it the fourth-most attended aquarium in the country.

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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY 6 Long Beach Business Journal

December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

(Continued From Previous Page)

But these successes may pale in comparison to the potential of 2013. Expanded retail is set to launch in the spring, and the Aquarium is celebrating its 15th anniversary in June with the launch of a new program on ocean exploration, a rotating collection of lectures and films, and an international forum bringing great explorers to Long Beach in July. The Aquarium also plans to continue ballet, opera and symphony performances. Schubel said Long Beach is the perfect home for the Aquarium because of its diversity as an urban ocean-waterfront city. This helps serve the Aquarium’s mission of connecting people with the local environment and demonstrating that healthy coastal ecosystems support a vibrant economy, Schubel said. “We don’t see the environment and a healthy business community at odds,” he added. “We see them as working closely together and complementary.” Schubel said that in five years he hopes to see the completion of the Aquarium’s campus master plan, attendance exceed two million and a wide acknowledgment that the Aquarium is the most distinctive in the country. It will take the work of city officials, the CVB and residents to make this happen, but he’s confident it will. “We couldn’t accomplish the things that we do unless we have these strong partnerships,” he said. The Queen Mary is another staple attraction in Long Beach. Evolution Hospitality took the management reigns in the fall of 2011 and in its short time, the benefits of the takeover have paid off. “We are very

“CHILL,” the latest event at the Queen Mary, brings ice sculptures and ice skating to Long Beach through January 6. For more information, call 562/435-3511 or visit: www.queenmar y.com. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

pleased with the success we had at the Queen Mary” in 2012, said Lynn Kozlowski, vice president of marketing. The Queen Mary added 14 new events this year, all of which have given the ship a new image as a destination beyond its historical appeal. For example, adding the Princess Diana exhibit “was one tremendous coup,” Kozlowski said. And the firstever “CHILL” event, which runs through January 6, has brought ice sculpting and skating to Long Beach. Steve Sheldon, director of entertainment events, said adding events helps keep the Queen Mary relevant. He compared this to museums that host traveling exhibits as a way to spruce up their everyday attraction. Of course, the Queen Mary is like a “living museum,” Sheldon said, and “events give people a reason to come back.” Sheldon said he is looking forward to hosting a brand new chili cook-off and

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brew festival at the Queen Mary in 2013, and Evolution will continue to service the ship with upgrades and new amenities for visitors. “We never had a presence in Long Beach” before acquiring the Queen Mary, Kozlowski said. But Evolution will soon begin operating the new Courtyard by Marriott hotel near the Long Beach Airport. “Now it seems like we’re going to become fast friends.” When tourists and day visitors to Long Beach experience the city’s unique waterfront, they often head to Shoreline Village at Rainbow Harbor, an ocean-side strip of retailers and restaurants. Business here fared pretty well in 2012, said Property Manager Maureen Baker. She believes more Americans are feeling better about the state of the economy, and therefore are traveling and spending more. Baker said she intends to add more enter-

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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013 Stops are made at the Queen Mary, Aquarium, Belmont Pier and Alamitos Bay. Moreover, the downtown Passport bus service has seen a 10 percent increase in use over the last year. “This is a popular service for our local residents, but is a huge benefit to those traveling to Long Beach,” Lee said. “The CVB makes a point to let potential travelers and convention business know that they can ride the bus downtown for free.”

The Harbor And Waterfront arnival Cruise Lines has made Long Beach a departure home for many years, and the benefit is evident in the fact that it carried about 340,000 passengers to Baja and the Mexican Riviera in 2012. And with this success, Carnival is expanding its cruise destinations to include two 15-day Hawaii trips in April and September 2013. “Hawaii is a very sought-after destination,” spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said in an email. “Offering a series of Hawaii cruises from Long Beach provides consumers with yet another attractive destination to visit from a convenient western U.S. homeport.” In addition, Carnival will welcome the arrival of the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle to Long Beach in 2013, “which will operate seasonal seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach featuring the seaside resort town of Puerto Vallarta and a special two-day visit to beautiful Cabo San Lucas,” Gulliksen said. “These cruises will be offered in April 2013 and from October 2013.” Of course, drug-cartel violence in Mexico

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Long Beach Business Journal 7 continues to place a caveat on cruises headed there. “There has been a large reduction in cruise capacity from the West Coast over the last several years,” Gulliksen said. “Safety concerns related to the significant issues with violent crime in Mexico have been, and continue to be, an issue in driving demand for West Coast cruises.” For something a little closer to home, many visitors and residents alike enjoy frequent trips to Santa Catalina Island via Catalina Express. With eight vessels in its fleet, the Express is able to provide about 30 daily departures on a normal summer day, and about 60 per week in the winter months, with 40 basing out of Long Beach and the rest from a new terminal on the San Pedro waterfront. The Express operates 365 day a year, “no matter what, rain or shine,” said Elaine Vaughan, vice president of sales and marketing. Though 2012 was a good year, including a four percent increase in passengers, moving the corporate offices to Long Beach and opening a new terminal in San Pedro, the year was not without its obstacles. “We always have challenges,” Vaughan said, and fuel prices were the leading case this past year. But with Catalina remaining such a popular destination – with sailing, golf, beaches, casinos and seemingly hundreds of other things to do – Vaughan expects 2013 to be just as good as 2012. “I’m expecting another pull forward,” she said. The installation of the USS Iowa to the San Pedro waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles’

Berth 87 was a big addition in 2012. Tours and programs take place at the warship every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whale watching and harbor tours also remain popular draws for visitors to Long Beach, and Harbor Breeze Cruises serves them well. “We had an absolutely fantastic year,” said owner Dan Salas, adding that passenger counts were up 15 percent in 2012. Moreover, walk-up business on weekends grew 15 to 20 percent, he said. Whale watching tours grow more popular every year, and “it helps that the blue whales are showing up in abundance here in Southern California,” Salas said. Harbor Breeze is adding a new state-of-the-art catamaran to its fleet in 2013 to serve

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growing interest in whale watching tours. The vessel will cover more ocean and offers better chances at catching a glimpse of the great fish – err, mammal. “There’s going to be nothing like it in the world,” Salas said. “It’s a great big roll of the dice. But we are very confident of what we see here with the new attitude in Long Beach.” Salas said Long Beach is great place to do business because its beaches, waterfront, harbor area, parks, dining and entertainment options make it an attractive destination city like no other in the region. Conventions also are a big upside. “The image of Long Beach of years past is gone,” he added. “A new Long Beach has emerged and we’re headed in the right direction.” ■

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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY 8 Long Beach Business Journal

December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

After Marginal Increases In 2012, Hotels Expect Stronger Numbers In 2013 Local Lodging Able To Raise Rates Though Prices Remain Below Pre-Recession Levels ■ By TIFFANY RIDER Senior Writer hile several local hotel general managers report marginal increases in occupancy rates and the ability to slightly raise room rates in 2012, their expectations for the coming year are hopeful for an even better year. Occupancy levels at five Long Beach hotels were up, albeit slightly, over 2011 numbers. Several factors may be attributed to occupancy rate increases – from more convention bookings to larger conventions, discounts offered by travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity, increased business at the Port of Long Beach, holiday travel and events happening in the city or region. Renaissance Long Beach saw an increase of about 1.3 percent over last year, according to General Manager Nusrat Mirza. While it is difficult to say exactly how much occupancy levels rose year to year at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach – the hotel was under renovation for the first four months of 2012 – General Manager Stephen D’Agostino said the Hyatt experienced a spike in occupancy from May through the year.

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Many Long Beach hotels saw modest increases in occupancy this year, and some were able to raise room rates. Several hotel general managers told the Business Journal they expect their hotels to fare better in 2013. Pictured, from left, are: Lucas Fiamengo, general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott; Sean Maddock, managing director of The Queen Mary; and Stephen D’Agostino, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

Andrea Robertson, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Long Beach Downtown, did not say where occupancy levels were this year compared to 2011, but she expects “2013 to be stronger than 2012,” according to an e-mail. Another downtown hotel, the Holiday Inn Downtown Long Beach, is not a primary hotel for conventions. However, the hotel still saw occupancy rates up over 2011 by 3 to 5 percent, according to General Manager Sharon Bateman. “We mainly get overflow from the host hotels,” she said. “It has to be a fairly large group for our hotel to benefit.” Among the hotels reached by the Business Journal for interviews, Hotel Maya General Manager Kristi Allen reported the highest year-to-year occu-

pancy increase at 6 percent. Beyond downtown, the Holiday Inn Long Beach Airport reported a small occupancy hike in 2012, “primarily due to increases in discounted transient business from third party websites,” General Manager Robert Smit said in an e-mail. Most hotels were able to raise room rates, including a four percent rate increase at Hotel Maya and a 10 percent increase at Holiday Inn Downtown Long Beach. According to Smit, the average room rate at the Holiday Inn Long Beach Airport was up slightly this year, though both occupancy and room rates are still well below the hotel’s peak levels in 2007 and 2008. D’Agostino reported a slight boost in rates at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach,

New Courtyard By Marriott At Douglas Park Opening In March The new Courtyard Long Beach, located at 3841 Lakewood Blvd., is on track to open in March 2013. Built on a 4.5-acre site, the hotel will offer: 159 rooms and suites with in-room refrigerators, coffeemakers and free WiFi; 2,000 square feet of meeting space with free WiFi; an outdoor heated pool and spa; The Bistro, featuring gourmet food items, to-go meals and a Starbucks espresso bar; a GoBoard touch screen with weather, news and restaurant information; a 24/7 state-of-the-art fitness center; a 24/7 market with snacks and sundries; complimentary parking and more. The hospitality company operating the hotel, Evolution Hospitality based in Newport Beach, has hired Kenya Bannister as director of sales and Mitch Healy as the interim general manager. No other hiring has been done, but Evolution Hospitality Vice President of Marketing Lynn Kozlowski told the Business Journal she expects “the staff to number about 50.” For more information, call Bannister at 562/225-9448 or e-mail kenyab@courtyardlb.com. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

likely attributable to the renovation in the first quarter of 2012. “However, based on getting the additional occupancies and what we’re seeing with the marketplace, we haven’t seen it grow as much as ownership would have liked,” D’Agostino said. Renaissance Long Beach, however, was unable to increase rates this year. They remained flat compared to 2011, according to Mirza. “People come to Long Beach for one of two reasons,” he said. “Either they come to a convention at the center or they come to do business in the Port of Long Beach. There’s not as much leisure business here.” Room rates at many hotels will likely continue to rise with economic improvement and increases in operating costs. “Operating costs have increased substantially in 2012 due to increased costs of goods, amenities and energy costs,” Smit said. “Operating costs will continue to increase in 2013. Competition remains fierce in the greater Long Beach area and beyond as the Southern California market slowly recovers.” To remain competitive, lodging executives and staff work to both maintain and keep décor and amenities fresh and hip for new guests and returning visitors. Hotels in Long Beach are no different. This year, Hotel Maya introduced a brand new fitness center and a 6,000-squarefoot beach “complete with fire pits, beach furniture and a beach bar,” according to Allen. Though no significant renovations are scheduled at the hotel in 2013, Allen said 2014 will likely include room remodels “to keep our boutique style rooms relevant.” The Hyatt Regency Long Beach is under renovation again through February, according to D’Agostino. Renovation of the first floor meeting space began in November. The hotel pool renovation was completed in the fall, expanding the pool deck to host outdoor events such as the VIP reception for this year’s Long Beach Marathon. “In January we’ll have music one night a week and make it another venue for Long Beach,” D’Agostino said. Mid-2013 renovations include a new fitness center, followed by a remodel of the entire lobby and some of the front driveway. Based on when it gets the proper permits, Holiday Inn Downtown Long Beach will begin improvements to its public areas in the spring. The hotel renovated rooms last year. Renaissance Long Beach renovated in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and has begun further renovations this quarter. According to Mirza, the hotel is updating its fitness center to include equipment with touch screens connected to the Internet. Courtyard by Marriott Long Beach Downtown is completely renovating its restaurant in early 2013, to reopen in spring next year, according to Robertson. “We expect the new restaurant concept to lure both our hotel guests and local diners alike,” she said. “With the addition of an executive chef, our special events menus will be completely revamped as well. We are looking forward to adding some great new value for our customers in 2013 and beyond.” Looking ahead, several local hotels agree that 2013 is shaping up to be a better year.


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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

Long Beach Business Journal 9

Though the Holiday Inn Long Beach Airport saw a decrease in demand in this fourth quarter, Smit said he remains hopeful that 2013 will improve. “We are projecting 2013 revenues to be marginally better than 2012 but still not to the peak of 2007 or 2008,� he said. “Our overall prices will increase in relation to increases in our operating costs.� D’Agostino said 2013 is a strong year on paper so far, and Hyatt Regency Long Beach hopes to capitalize on that. “People who come to Long Beach realize a lot has happened here in the past few years, and they want to come back,� he said. “ They see the enhancements. It’s going to drive business to solidify the future. The more that we can bring people into the city, we can make this the place to be.� He also expressed his gratitude to Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) President Steve Goodling and the CVB team for bringing business into the city. Renaissance Long Beach should have a better year in 2013, according to Mirza, though remaining competitive is a challenge. “We do have strong advance bookings right now. That is a good indicator for an increase in business, but our expectation is to grow room rates in 2013,� Mirza said. “If you look at Long Beach, our pricing structure is still below what it was in 2008. We really have to find a way to attract conventions and guests. It all depends on how the corporate world travels. When they travel more they stay in our hotels more.� Measure N, the local living wage meas-

ure passed in November that requires hotels with more than 100 rooms to pay hospitality employees a minimum of $13 per hour (and other benefits such as automatic two percent annual pay increases, five days sick pay, etc.), is going to have a huge impact on bottom lines based on the number of employees at a given hotel. At Holiday Inn Downtown Long Beach, Bateman said this new requirement will result in “some issues with revenue.â€? She expects a 3 percent increase in business in 2013 at most. “We won’t be able to raise prices to compensate for that,â€? Bateman said. However, she is excited about what the living wage will do for her staff. “It’s going to give us an opportunity to draw in really good staff because of what we can provide,â€? she said. “It’s unfortunate [for the bottom line], but we can have the best employees in the area.â€? Most hotel general managers have remained tight lipped on their plans to address the living wage measure, whether its reducing staff, having more part-time staff, reducing rooms, increasing room rates or a combination of several items. Last week, the Golden Sales Best Western laid off all its employees and planned to rehire some under a new corporation (see Section A, Page 1 story). “According to the Mayan Calendar, the world as we know it ends on December 21st,,â€? Allen said, “and with the passing of Measure N going into effect on the 21st, we don’t really know what will happen next.â€? â–

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1_LBBJDec4_2012_SectionB_LBBJ MASTER LAYOUT 12/15/12 4:44 PM Page 10

HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY 10 Long Beach Business Journal

December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

Megan Rodriguez Builds Awareness Of Long Beach As A Destination City Long Beach Media Maven Offers Insight On Being An In-House PR Professional Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville

■ By TIFFANY RIDER Senior Writer

“A

Media Maven is not a Monday-Friday, 8-5 type of job,” according to Megan

Rodriguez. She would know – Rodriguez is the public relations manager for the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). With the support of the CVB’s hospitality partners and others throughout the community, Rodriguez promotes all of the wonderful things about Long Beach to media locally, regionally, nationally and, sometimes, internationally. Rodriguez is responsible for strategizing and executing public relations (PR) efforts, maintaining media relations, participating in brand development and building awareness for tourism in Long Beach. “Because the news never stops, I always make myself available as a resource to media and take calls/respond to e-mails on evenings, weekends, holidays and even on vacation,” Rodriguez said. “It’s the nature of the beast. I love it because it keeps things exciting and fast-paced and wouldn’t want it any other way.” A native of Castro Valley, a small town in Northern California, Rodriguez always knew she wanted to work in hospitality. She began working in the industry at age 15, and by the time she graduated high school had decided she wanted to be a hotel general manager. After working in everything from food and beverage to client services, Rodriguez realized hotel general manager wasn’t the best fit for her. “I still loved the hospitality industry and wanted to stay in that realm,” she said. “I’ve always been a strong writer and a good communicator. At the time I didn’t really know what PR

involved, so I thought, ‘I’m social. I can write. I can do PR.’” She decided to enroll at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) as a transfer student and moved to Long Beach in 2002. Rodriguez took journalism and PR courses full time while working food and beverage at a Marriott hotel downtown. She soon realized she needed an internship before she graduated, and expressed this to the hotel general manager. “He suggested that I intern at the CVB,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t even know what a CVB was.” Ironically, the next CVB membership mixer was to be held at the hotel she worked at, and the general manager introduced her to CVB Director of Public Relations Bob Maguglin. “He was so gracious,” she said. “I was in my bartender uniform introducing myself when everyone was dressed in suits. He gave me his card to call him for an interview, and the next week I was an intern at the CVB.” By the end of her internship, Rodriguez learned two things: she wouldn’t go back to Northern California – that Long Beach had become her home – and that she wanted to work for the Long Beach CVB. Rodriguez graduated from CSULB in 2004 with a degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations, and went to work for a hospitality PR firm in Santa Monica. She put in three years at the firm to gain experience, all the while keeping in touch with Maguglin. “The timing couldn’t have been better when I got the call from Bob that there was a position open,” Rodriguez said. Next January marks six years from when she interviewed and got her “dream job.” “A big reason for Megan being hired as public relations manager for the CVB was her persistence,” Maguglin told the Business

Journal via e-mail. “She actively pursued the intern position, did a great job here as an intern, and then made sure to keep in touch with us even when she was working in a different city. When a position opened, her name was at the top of our list of candidates. Now Megan brings that same tenacity and enthusiasm to the Long Beach CVB, as she works with major media outlets around the country to promote Long Beach.” As public relations manager, the majority of Rodriguez’s day is spent writing. She is responsible for writing press releases, media pitches, backgrounders, social media messaging, copy for marketing materials, CVB website content and even talking points for colleagues, clients and occasionally elected officials. Beyond her writing duties, Rodriguez coordinates group press trips of seven to 10 writers once or twice annually in addition to individual press trips throughout the year. She also attends media events held by Visit California, the state’s CVB, which allows Rodriguez to connect with even more writers from across the country. This year Rodriguez managed a special project –the CVB’s New York media mission. The trip brought representatives from the Long Beach Airport, the Long Beach Convention Center and Bike Nation (the company behind the city’s upcoming bike sharing program) to the Big Apple for media appointments as well as a large reception with about 60 media outlets to promote some of the new developments coming online in Long Beach. Rodriguez is proud of the fact that in the six years she’s been with the CVB, Long Beach has been written about in the New York Times three times. The most recent placement was in July. A story was published about how hotels and convention centers are using social space for meetings

and conventions, and Rodriguez was quoted talking about the Long Beach Convention Center. It was the only convention center and the only Southern California city mentioned in the article. “Because there has been so much development in Long Beach in the past several years, there has been a lot of good attention,” Rodriguez said. “Stories like this are now being used as a tool by our sales department saying that we are on the cutting edge. It’s just a really exciting time to be involved and it’s really exciting to be a part of it and to tell the story.” Looking toward 2013, Rodriguez said she will continue to promote the Long Beach Arena upgrade project – expected to open in August – along with the bike share program launching in February, the recently unveiled concourse at the Long Beach Airport and other happenings and developments with CVB partners. “PR is about helping people. It’s about building relationships. It’s about spreading information and linking that information with the right people,” Rodriguez said. Outside of her job, Rodriguez helps others by volunteering as a big sister in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program and mentoring PR students at CSULB. She recently became the professional advisor for the PR department at the university, which further allows Rodriguez to give back to her community. “I’m a big advocate of paying it forward and giving back to what has made you successful,” Rodriguez said. “The city has been so good to me, and I learned a lot through Cal State, so it’s always good to go back and show people that it’s not that hard [to get your dream job]. You just need the right people to push you and guide you and let you know that it’s okay to go outside and be successful.” ■


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HOSPITALITY & TOURISM INDUSTRY December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

Long Beach Business Journal 11

Ear To The Ground Jayme Wilson Knows The Harbor Area As Well As Anyone ■ By JOSHUA H. SILAVENT Staff Writer ayme Wilson, 60, has seen a lot of changes in the harbor area since launching Spirit Cruises three decades ago. He’s seen the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles grow enormously, just as he’s seen the size of the vessels entering the seaport grow larger and larger. He’s seen businesses in San Pedro come and go. He’s seen the evolution of Long Beach’s waterfront, even pitching in on the planning of Rainbow Harbor. “The change is amazing,” Wilson said, adding that the best has come in the improved water and air quality in the harbor communities. More dolphins are seen in the harbor these days, he said, and clear views

J

Jayme Wilson, owner of Spirit Cruises and the Ports O’ Call restaurant, is pictured here with his yacht, the Pacific Spirit, and restaurant in the background. Wilson has worked in the harbor area for three decades. “I’ve been very involved in a lot of different things, which has really allowed me to connect with people and better understand how to serve them,” he said. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

of Santa Catalina Island are more common. But, like many Americans of his generation, there was one thing Wilson’s eyes couldn’t quite believe. “Clearly, the reces-

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sion was something that I had never seen before in my life,” he said. Sales and passenger counts at Spirit Cruises, which has operations in both San

Pedro and Long Beach, dropped off precipitously when the economy tanked, and though things have improved markedly the (Please Continue To Next Page)


1_LBBJDec4_2012_SectionB_LBBJ MASTER LAYOUT 12/15/12 4:44 PM Page 12

MEETING SITES GUIDE 12 Long Beach Business Journal

December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

Spirit Cruises operates out of both Long Beach – left at Shoreline Village – and San Pedro, providing passengers tours of both harbors. (Business Journal photographs by Thomas McConville) (Continued From Previous Page)

last two years, business has not yet reached pre-recession levels. Because Long Beach’s economy is so focused on conventions and tourism, it was hurt worse than San Pedro, Wilson said, though every one in every community felt the force of economic constraints. But now business is bouncing back at Spirit, with bookings for high school field trips, weddings and company retreats on the mend. “We’ve been very lucky that everything is inching forward,” Wilson said. Of course, redevelopment is en vogue once more. The Port of Los Angeles is currently sifting through proposals from eight commercial real estate developers vying to remake the 30-acre Ports O’ Call Village on the San Pedro Waterfront. A man who wears many hats and has his hands in many endeavors – Wilson has been president of a chamber of commerce, sat on planning commission and

redevelopment boards, and even ran a campaign, albeit unsuccessful, for a city council seat representing San Pedro – Wilson is also the owner of the Ports O’ Call restaurant, the 25,000-square-foot flagship property in the village. It’s unclear what will happen to the restaurant when the port proceeds with redevelopment of the area, likely sometime in 2015, but major changes are certainly coming. Wilson said he has been advocating for redevelopment for a long time, and that he’s happy to finally see the port moving on it with plans, for example, to construct a promenade along the waterfront stretch at the village. “I think it’s very important to make these improvements and make public access more available on the water,” he added. Wilson also sees redevelopment having a positive impact on the San Pedro community, something that is already occurring

Aquarium of the Pacific 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach 90802 More than 50,000 sq ft of event space Max seating: 550 banquet; 150 theater; 50 classroom Amenities: On-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Alyssa Rosen, Dir. of Catering Sales Ph: 562/951-1663 Fax: 562/951-3144 www.aquariumofpacific.org e-mail: arosen@smgcatering.com

Buono’s Authentic Pizzeria 250 W. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach 90802 Celebrating 38 years Can accommodate up to 300 people Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; off-site catering; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Frank Buono, Owner Ph: 562/427-8665 Fax: 562/427-4049 www.buonospizza.com

Carson Center 801 E. Carson Street, Carson 90745 Adjacent to the 225-Room DoubleTree Hotel 20 meeting rooms; 40,000 sq ft Max seating: 800 banquet; 1,200 theater; 700 classroom Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; free parking; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator, on-site catering by Choura Events Contact: Sales Coordinators Ph: 310/835-0212 • Fax: 310/835-0160 www.carsoncenter.com e-mail: carsonctr@carson.ca.us

with marina and parks projects now complete in the area. “I think the Port of L.A. is stepping up to make sure that economic growth benefits the surrounding area and not just the strip along the water,” he said. But Wilson also is hopeful that his restaurant can be a part of the redevelopment, rather than it being razed to make way for an entirely new establishment. “I believe that every waterfront on the West Coast and East Coast, when they do their revitalization . . . they don’t tear down their anchor restaurants,” he said. “I think you build on successes; you don’t tear down successes.” Wilson, who grew up in Long Beach and moved to San Pedro just eight years ago, has spent his life making the harbor area an attraction for visitors to and residents of Southern California. With his ear to the ground, he has made it his calling to share this unrivaled destination with the world. “I’ve been very involved

in a lot of different things, which has really allowed me to connect with people and better understand how to serve them,” he said. But what is it, really, that makes the seaport and harbor such a special place to visit? Wilson thinks he knows – that is, if anyone can relate to what piques his own interest. “I like the contrast between the serenity of the early mornings along the water versus the hustle and bustle of the industrial giant that we are,” he said. So what’s next for Wilson? He said he’d like to add a larger yacht to his fleet, perhaps something capable of holding 400 passengers. But wherever he goes and whatever he does, you can bet that he won’t stray far from the harbor. The future holds too many possibilities, but this seems as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. “I feel good that things are improving and I can see it in people’s faces,” Wilson said. ■

Catalina Express For your next meeting or event, look no further than Catalina Island. Just an hour away on a sleek Catalina Express high speed catamaran. Catalina Express offers year round service and up to 30 daily departures from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. Group prices are available as are private charters. Reservations: 1-800/914-4562 Group Reservations: (Mon-Fri 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) 1-800/914-4562 ext. 4 • www.catalinaexpress.com e-mail: mail@CatalinaExpress.com

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach 90840 2 meeting rooms Max seating: 165 banquet; 200 theater; 80 classroom Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; off-site catering; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Event Coordinators Ph: 562/985-8889 Fax: 562/985-5362 www.csulb.edu/jgarden e-mail: jgcoordinators@csulb.edu

Holiday Inn Long Beach Airport Hotel & Conference Center 2640 N. Lakewood Boulevard, Long Beach 90815 222 Guest Rooms 6 separated/9 combined meeting rooms; largest: 5,000 sq ft Max seating: 300 banquet; 360 theater; 240 classroom Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; free parking; on-site business center; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Essie Boyd, Director of Catering Ph: 562/498-5410 • Fax: 562/498-1010 www.hilongbeach.com e-mail: sales@hilongbeach.com


1_LBBJDec4_2012_SectionB_LBBJ MASTER LAYOUT 12/15/12 4:44 PM Page 13

MEETING SITES GUIDE December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013

Long Beach Business Journal 13

Event Planning Essentials Events of any sort, from grand affairs to intimate gatherings, are a great opportunity to entertain friends or colleagues while showcasing unique aspects of your organization. While wearing your event-planning hat, be sure to think big . . . and then get working on those details that tie it all together.

Be Creative It’s usually most effective and enjoyable to start with creative brainstorming. Discussing the big picture, like vision and theme, with your event team will give team members the motivation and framework they need to carry through with important details. Make your event memorable: Events that people remember fondly tend to have at least one distinctive quality to them. Whether it’s grandiose, such as a costume theme party; small, like using sculptures for centerpieces; or personal, like having your niece sing at your wedding, creative touches are greatly appreciated by event-

goers. Even serious business meetings can incorporate creativity by hiring engaging speakers, beginning a meeting with an element of humor or serving adventurous food and drinks. Consider a unique location: Choosing to hold your event at a museum, art gallery or historic building gives your event cultural flavor and ambiance from the get-go. Give back: Demonstrate your commitment to a charitable cause by incorporating an element of giving into your event. You might consider donating all proceeds to charity, arranging for leftover food to be donated to a food bank or holding your event at a cultural institution that you

Hyatt Regency Long Beach 200 S. Pine Avenue, Long Beach 90802 528 Newly Renovated Guest Rooms 18 meeting rooms; largest: 10,050 sq ft Max seating: 1,000 banquet; 1,400 theater; 600 classroom Amenities: Off-site catering; on-site business center; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Kim Wijmer, Director of Sales & Marketing Ph: 562/624-6100 • Fax: 562/624-6115 www.longbeach.hyatt.com e-mail: saleslgbrl@hyatt.com

KDB – Long Beach 10 Aquarium Way, Long Beach 90802 2 meeting rooms; largest: 2,400 sq ft Max seating: 75 banquet, 125 theater style, 80 classroom style Amenities: Off-site catering; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Bennie Thomas, Dir. Sales & Marketing Ph: 562/308-7530 Fax: 562/308-7539 www.kdblongbeach.com e-mail: bthomas@kdblongbeach.com

Long Beach Museum of Art 2300 E. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach 90803 4 meeting rooms; largest: 900 sq ft Max seating: banquet – 100 inside; 300 outside; theater – 75 inside; 150 outside Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; free parking for up to 70 guests; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Sarajeva Vasquez and Andrea Crane Ph: 562/439-2119 ext. 222 www.lbma.org • e-mail: specialevents@lbma.org

Long Beach Petroleum Club 3636 Linden Avenue, Long Beach 90807 4 meeting rooms; largest: 6,000 sq ft Max seating: 350 banquet; 500 theater; 300 classroom Amenities: free parking; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator; large permanent dance floor Contact: Manager, Event Sales Ph: 562/427-7966 • Fax: 562/427-0726 www.lbpetroleumclub.com e-mail: catering@lbpetroleumclub.com

want to support – or all of the above. Publicize this in your promotional materials, for both your sake and the charity’s.

‘Green’ Your Event Unfortunately, events can create a lot of waste and harm to our environment. This is due, in part, to the sheer volume of supplies and materials needed. Luckily, there are easy and cost-neutral ways to incorporate environmental care into your event, while setting a good example. Here are a few ideas: • Think ‘green’ from the get-go. Bring all vendors, sponsors and presenters on board at the beginning to help make the event as sustainable as possible; • Hire a caterer who buys seasonal, organic produce from local farmers and sustainable meat; • Limit car commuting by holding your event close to public transportation, offering shuttle service, and providing a bike valet through the BikeStation; • Print materials on environmentally sound paper, such as 100 percent recy-

cled. Most major paper companies offer affordable options; • Create less waste by making sure all recyclables are indeed recycled, asking guests to leave nametag holders at the door on their way out and using large containers for beverages and food instead of individual cans and bottles. Post speakers’ notes and slides on your Web site instead of distributing print copies; and • Make sure you announce your sustainability efforts to event attendees during your speakers’ program and in your print materials. This conveys your environmental commitment while planting a seed in their heads as to how they can duplicate your efforts. Remember, even small steps can make a big difference.

The Devil Is In The Details Whether you find details delightful or nerve-racking, a successful event depends on their successful implementation. The key is to plan early and stay organized. Create a checklist: Planning an event (Please Continue To Next Page)

Naples Rib Co. 5800 E. 2nd Street, Long Beach 90802 1 meeting room; largest: 480 sq ft Max seating: 50 banquet, theater or classroom style Amenities: Free parking; off-site catering; on-site audio visual equipment; Contact: Dave Ursini, Proprietor Ph: 562/439-7427 Fax: 562/433-2758 www.ribcompany.com e-mail: owners@ribcompany.com

Old Ranch Country Club 3901 Lampson Avenue, Seal Beach 90740 7 meeting rooms; largest: 6,700 sq ft Max seating: 430 banquet; 700 theater; 360 classroom Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; free parking; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Kathleen Mesinas, Director of Catering Ph: 562/596-4425 ext 137 • Fax: 562/594-0414 www.oldranch.com e-mail: kmesinas@oldranch.com

Parkers’ Lighthouse 435 Shoreline Drive, Long Beach 90802 2 meeting rooms; largest: 1,800 sq ft Max seating: 100 banquet; 50 classroom Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; on-site meeting facilitator; entire restaurant available for buyout Contact: Private Dining Department Ph: 562/432-6500 • Fax: 562/436-3551 www.parkerslighthouse.com e-mail: banquetinfo@parkerslighthouse.com

The Queen Mary 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach 90802 314 Guest Rooms 14 meeting rooms; largest: 9,000 sq ft Max seating: 800 banquet; 500 theater; 250 classroom Amenities: Outdoor meeting facilities; on-site audio visual equipment; on-site business center; on-site meeting facilitator Contact: Quentin Roberts, Director of Sales Ph: 562/499-1751 • Fax: 562/435-3511 www.queenmary.com e-mail: quentin.roberts@queenmary.com


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MEETING SITES GUIDE 14 Long Beach Business Journal involves more than deciding on a date and menu. Some things to consider include parking, check-in, seating, audiovisual needs, permits, lighting, decorations and the program agenda. Stay organized by keeping event details together in one place, such as a three-ring binder, for easy and quick access. Don’t forget to keep a copy of important paperwork, from check copies to the menu. Know your budget: Come up with a dollar figure for your event, and have an idea of how it should be allocated. This gets tricky with such factors as fluctuating attendee counts and an open bar, so leave room in your budget for surprises. Choose a date: Come up with a date that doesn’t conflict with a holiday or local or industry events. Keep in mind that some seasons and days are more affordable than others. For example, Saturday night weddings in June are the most popular and therefore usually the most expensive. Pick a location: Event venues, especially popular ones, fill up quickly, so it’s important to reserve them early. After narrowing down your top choices, visit the facilities, and pay close attention to how you are treated – from the receptionist to the banquet manager. Don’t hesitate to ask for references. It’s helpful to visit the location during the same time of day your event will take place to gauge the noise level, parking situation and lighting. You may find that a beautiful room during the day features mood-detracting florescent lights at night, or that the sun glares through the shades during the morning or sundown hours. Hire vendors with a proven track record: When hiring vendors, choose companies that come highly recommended for their quality and reliability. Contact them early and ask for references. Make sure you sample the catering, preview the entertainment (via a video recording or demo tape) and receive a graphic rendering of the planned décor. Do a walkthrough: Ask all vendors to meet you for one walkthrough at the event site. This gets everyone on the same page in terms of room setup and logistics. It also lets you take care of several event details in one fell swoop, like choosing linens that match the room. Ask questions: Never hesitate to ask questions. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that your vendors know what you want. They’re professionals, but they’re not mind readers. Ensure an easy commute: Think about the route your guests will take to get to your event. Make sure that transit and driving directions are clear, parking is accessible and safe and the event is easy to find. In some instances, greeters may be needed to direct guests. Design appropriate publicity pieces: Your publicity materials should convey the formality of the event so attendees know what to wear and what to expect. For example, a Hawaiian theme party should have a colorful and casual invitation, whereas a black tie gala requires one that is formal. Sweat the small stuff: Did you order

December 18, 2012-January 14, 2013 pens and notepads for the conference settings? Flowers for the bar? Candles for the dining tables? Small touches make a big difference. Plan for the worst: No matter how well prepared you are, it’s impossible to control the unexpected – whether it’s a keynote speaker canceling, last-minute RSVPs or inclement weather. Having back-up plans will ensure a smooth event and give you peace of mind.

Hiring An Event Planner If you don’t have the time or desire to plan your event in-house, you may consider hiring an event planner. Sometimes this is the best way to ensure your event receives sufficient attention and expertise. Choose a planner by doing a little research and asking colleagues for recommendations. Interview potential candidates and check references. Double-check that the planner handles permit and license acquisition, including site permits, food permits, liquor licensing and lighting and sound licenses. Upon hiring someone, create a detailed contract.

Contract Tips

Old Ranch Country Club

No matter how trustworthy a vendor or event planner may seem, it’s crucial to sign a comprehensive contract. Here are some of the points a contract should include: • The vendor’s specific responsibilities; • The scope of the event (for contracts with event planners); • An itemized list of what will be provided and the agreed-upon costs; • Any extra charges, such as taxes, tips, parking and audiovisual equipment; • All dates, times and other important details; • That your money can be refunded if you have to cancel in a timely fashion; and • Contingency plans for crisis situations, such as emergencies, rain or natural disasters. Review everything in the contract, and make sure everyone understands the terms. Ask questions until you receive satisfactory answers. It’s useful to find out what kind of insurance your event planner and your own company carry in case of unforeseen damages. When working with an event planner, you have a right to know who the subcontractors are and get answers to anything you may have questions about. Do they buy sustainable seafood? Do they have complaints against them through the Better Business Bureau? After all, you are the one paying them to provide a product or service. Written agreements with caterers include a “final guarantee,” which is your finalized guest count. This tells them how much food, beverages and place settings to order. A typical guarantee date is two or three days before the event.

Relax If you feel yourself ‘going bridal,’ take a break and remind yourself of the big picture – the vision, the creativity and the purpose. If you get an early start on event organizing and recruit helpers, you’ll be able to enjoy the process and the event itself. Happy planning! ■


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Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau U U U U

One-Stop Resource For Meetings & Conventions Industry Award-Winning Convention Service & Sales Teams First Class Accommodations State-of-the-Art Convention Center

Let Us Help Make Your Next Meeting Or Convention A Success For more information, please contact Steve Goodling at (562) 495-8350 or visit our website at visitlongbeach.com

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Hospitality & Tourism Industry / Meeting Sites Guide December 2012  

The Long Beach Business Journal focus on hospitality and tourism, including a meeting sites guide.

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