No room for doubt in local hoteliers’ minds about Hilton/Homewood venture
Opposition from neighbors, a growing recession and even a fire couldn’t stop hotelier Bob Rauch from accomplishing his dream and opening two hotels bordering Del Mar.
He and business partner Joe Simone recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar “Campus,” home to the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites in San Diego.
“We accomplished exactly what we set out to do,” said Rauch, who co-owns both hotels with Simone. “Both hotels have been tremendous successes despite the setbacks.”
Rauch planned to build two hotels on the 4-acre parcel when he purchased the property for $4 million in August 2000.
Some community members at first opposed his plans in fear he would build the buildings and then leave. But Rauch, who lived in Carmel Valley for 23 years, assured them he would stay onboard as owner and operator of the hotels.
“Somebody who develops hotels never runs hotels,” said Rauch, who serves as president of R.A. Rauch and Associates, a hospitality management and consulting firm.
“You’re not going to find a developer who also is a true hotelier,” he continued. “The skills are typically not interchangeable. It’s a different skill set. But I have decided to be unique in life, so I am both a developer, owner and operator of hotels.”
Five years later, Rauch and Simone opened Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego-Del Mar on May 30, 2005, at 11025 Vista Sorrento Parkway in San Diego. The 94,000-square-foot hotel offers 120 suites.
Not long after opening the doors, Rauch and Simone got started on their second hotel.
In June 2007, however, a fire destroyed the nearly completed Hilton Garden Inn. The fire caused about $8.5 million in damage, destroyed 30 parked cars and also damaged a number of rooms at the Homewood Suites next door.
“It was almost open,” Rauch recalled. “We were trying to catch the summer of 2007, which would have made life a lot easier for me since times were still good.”
Although the economy was in a slump, the pair pushed forward with their plans.
They opened the Hilton Garden Inn San Diego/Del Mar in March 6, 2008, at 3939 Ocean Bluff Ave. The 56,000-square-foot hotel offers 80 rooms, two restaurants, a spa and meeting space.
“We rebuilt immediately,” Rauch said. “Neither one of us even thought for a moment that we’d give up.”
Despite early setbacks, both hotels have become quite successful.
In 2005, Homewood Suites brought in just under $4 million in revenue. Today, both hotels bring in more than $10 million annually.
In addition, Homewood Suites started with just 27 employees. Today, both hotels have a combined staff of more than 100 people.
Rauch credits the Campus’ success to its brands, location and management.
Having been in the hotel industry for 41 years, he said it is uncommon for a hotel to have the same owners for 10 years.
“This was the goal,” said Rauch, who shares his insights and trends in the hospitality industry at www.hotelguru.com. “It was always my goal to manage them long-term.”
In addition, they have retained many of their employees for years.
Although hours were cut, no employees were laid off during the recession, Rauch noted. Benefits also remained intact.
Six staff members also recently celebrated 10 years at the Campus.
“We have a culture that’s a good fit for anybody who wants to stay and wants to grow,” said Rauch, adding that the company offers competitive wages and benefits.
Looking back on the past decade, Rauch said he’s most proud of his staff’s performance.
Homewood Suites has consistently ranked among TripAdvisor’s Top 10 hotels in San Diego, listed as No. 5 out of 272 hotels in San Diego. Hilton Garden Inn, which sits at No. 13, has consistently ranked in the top 15.
Both hotels have Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor. And in 2008, Hilton awarded Hilton Garden Inn as “Development of the Year.”
Rauch has also won his share of awards.
He was named one of San Diego Metro Magazine’s Men Who Impact San Diego in 2012. In 2013, he was recognized as one of San Diego Daily Transcript’s Top Influentials.
“At the end of the day, what really matters is what the hotel gets,” Rauch said. “Every day the hotel gets awarded one of the top hotels by our guests. That’s why they keep on coming back.”
For more about Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego-Del Mar, visit https://homewoodsuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/homewood-suites-by-hilton-san-diego-del-mar-SANDEHW/index.html.
For more about Hilton Garden Inn San Diego/Del Mar, visit https://hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/hilton-garden-inn-san-diego-del-mar-SANMDGI/index.html.
Get the Del Mar Times in your inbox
Top stories from Carmel Valley, Del Mar and Solana Beach every Friday for free.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Del Mar Times.