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Editorial: Hotel investors pump cash into South Coast

By   /   Friday, December 2nd, 2011  /   Comments Off on Editorial: Hotel investors pump cash into South Coast

Two of the most financially troubled hotel projects in the region have gotten new funding or new ownership this year.

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Two of the most financially troubled hotel projects in the region have gotten new funding or new ownership this year.

That’s a positive sign that shows our region is able to demonstrate that it remains a world-class destination. But it also heralds a new period of change for an industry that’s been pretty much locked in place since funding for hotel projects began to dry up at the onset of the Great Recession.

The latest news comes from El Encanto, an almost forgotten gem of a resort on Santa Barbara’s Riviera. Closed for years due to a renovation plan that failed to find funding, it has languished.

But as Real Estate Editor Marlize van Romburgh reported in the Nov. 25 edition of the Business Times, owner Orient-Express Hotels has $45 million in new cash and a plan to open El Enacnto sometime next year. That puts 92 rooms back on the market at a time when the industry is rebounding, not collapsing.

We’ve already reported extensively on Bacara Resort & Spa and its new owners, a group that continues to impress area residences with community mindedness and a willingness to create win-win situations for cash-strapped community organizations looking for venues for fundraisers. The sale of the Goleta resort for a recorded $104  million could represent a huge windfall for the region, if Ohana Resorts can find the right price points to bolster

Bacara’s business and mid-week conference bookings. It also will be completing renovations that were stalled by the financial crisis.

The next rung up the ladder for the the region’s travel and tourism recovery will be the funding of a totally new project.

In the Santa Barbara area alone, there are three projects ready for lift off — La Entrada at the gateway to lower State Street, the Parker family’s 150-room waterfront hotel next to their DoubleTree Resort and Los Angeles developer Rick  Caruso’s stalled Miramar project in Montecito.

We’ll be watching to see how the next phase in the nascent tourism recovery plays out. Anyone with a pocket calculator can see that the stakes are quite large.

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