SAN DIEGO—Originally built in 1970, the Westgate Hotel, part of the Grand America Hotels and Resorts collection owned by the Holding family, was the costliest in the country at the time at $14.5 million, which is the equivalent to roughly $90 million today, according to the hotel’s management team.
The Westgate Hotel located in downtown San Diego recently celebrated its 45th anniversary on August 29. Over the years, noted politicians, actors and musicians such as President Gerald Ford, Meryl Streep, Kate Hudson and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have stayed at the luxury hotel.
“The Westgate Hotel is a unique property in San Diego,” said Richard Cox, the hotel’s general manager. “The hotel itself is designed after the Palace of Versailles, with intricate details and original antique furnishing surrounded by today’s modern conveniences. The hotel offers all of the classic amenities of an upscale four-diamond property with our special classic European environment.”
He added, “Our guests can relax by the rooftop pool deck while unwinding from the hustle and bustle of a day of work or play. The hotel has remained true to our original service promise since opening. Our international staff treats our guests with gracious kindness and attentive service.”
Cox has been working at the property in various roles for more than 27 years. “I took over as general manager in early 2008 just before the most severe recession our economy has ever faced,” he said. “That, coupled with a large expansion in available upper-upscale hotel product in the local community, made for very difficult times.”
According to Cox, the GM and his management team have refined and redeveloped the hotel’s guest services to ensure the relevancy of the property in the downtown San Diego market. The hotel has developed a number of initiatives to support those efforts and improve the guest experience while maintaining and improving the property’s financial performance.
“I started my hospitality career with the Westgate in 1988 as a busboy in the fine dining room,” he said. “I have been given many different opportunities within the company through the years to learn and grow into the position I hold currently. If there are valuable lessons passed on to me over time, it was to always keep the picture perspective while remembering those details that lead to success. I always keep an active role in the day-to-day operations of the hotel with a motto of ‘You get what you inspect, not what you expect.’”
Cox worked his way up through all aspects of the hotel business operation. He worked as a waiter in Le Fontainebleau restaurant, then moved to the banquet department, where he started as an assistant and rose to banquet manager. Successful in proving his management and sales capabilities, he was promoted to conference services and catering sales manager in 2000, as well as assistant of the food and beverages manager in 2001.
In 2002, as a result of his financial and operational experience, the Westgate owners appointed him to rooms division director. Under his leadership, Cox restructured the department by implementing revenue management, compiling detailed forecasts and developing the reservations department, as well as constantly training his team members to optimize their skills. His efforts resulted in a significant increase in revenue: from 2003 to 2007, the room revenue rose from $3 million to $7 million, increasing the average room rate by 48%.
In 2007, Cox was granted the additional responsibility of hotel deputy manager, in which he worked closely with the general manager on the daily operations and initiated strategic milestones such as personalized room amenities and the construction of the spa.