Mission Bay resort ditches its Hilton brand

The San Diego Mission Bay Resort, as it will now be called, recently underwent a $21 million facelift


The 357-room Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa on Mission Bay is formally parting ways with Hilton following a more than half-century relationship.

Come Jan. 1, the hotel will be known as the San Diego Mission Bay Resort, part of a new strategy by the owner and operator to elevate the profile of the property and attract a more upscale clientele. The decision to rebrand follows the recent completion of a $21 million renovation of the resort, including a redo of all the rooms and the conference center.

“The thinking is that the ownership really wanted to create a more vibrant brand that would attract a different demographic, and after a $21 million reimagination of the property, Hilton just doesn’t have the same cachet that a lot of the independent resorts have,” said George Allen, area director of sales and marketing for Noble House Hotels and Resorts, which manages the Mission Bay property. “There are a lot of things we can do to take it from a three-diamond to a four-diamond hotel. And the owner, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, felt like there’s so much history in this hotel it could really be a more authentic brand.”

The hotel’s affiliation with Hilton dates to the mid-1960’s when what was then known as The Ocean House was sold to the Hilton chain and renamed the Hilton Inn.

Allen was unable to provide examples of what changes might be implemented to help transform the resort to a higher-end destination, noting that those kinds of details have yet to be finalized. Ultimately, guests will notice a higher level of personal service, he said.

The hotel’s recently completed renovation entailed a redo of all 357 guestrooms, including new bedding, carpeting, wall coverings, artwork, televisions and new, modernized bathrooms. Also getting a redo was the hotel’s conference center. The last major overhaul of the hotel was in 2007.

Still to come is another renovation that would entail re-concepting the resort’s restaurant, Acqua California Bisro. In all, the hotel’s owner hopes to invest $10.5 million more in the project, which would also include a remodel of the lobby and other public spaces, but because the proposal requires the approval of the city of San Diego and California Coastal Commission, nothing is definite yet, Allen said. The public approvals are needed because the hotel sits on city-owned property.

In transitioning away from its affiliation with a large hotel chain, the Mission Bay resort will no longer have access to a worldwide reservations system and the Hilton points program. Allen, however, said that Pebblebrook, a large real estate investment trust, felt that the advantages of moving toward a more independent operation outweighed any disadvantages of losing Hilton’s name ID and broad reach.

“The owners didn’t see the downside in converting from a Hilton,” he said. “For example, Hilton is very good at having a homogenized product throughout the U.S. and Europe, but they felt there was much more of an upside in creating a one of a kind brand on Mission Bay, which has tremendous real estate and views.”