W Hotel San Diego Leaving Starwood: Why This Is Especially Interesting

Let me start by saying that this has absolutely nothing to do with the Marriott takeover of Starwood. 😉

I spend a fair amount of time in San Diego, and my “go to” hotel there is usually the W San Diego. It’s by no means an amazing hotel, but it’s reasonably nice, rates tend to be excellent, and elite recognition is quite good (for example, they give Platinum members a “proper” restaurant breakfast, rather than the skimpy “continental” breakfast many other hotels offer).

W-San-Diego

While looking at the hotel’s website yesterday I noticed an announcement indicating that the W San Diego will be leaving Starwood as of December 15, 2015:

The W San Diego will be leaving the Starwood system on December 15, 2015. Reservations for dates on or after December 15, 2015, will not be eligible for Starwood Preferred Guest membership benefits, award redemption or accrual.

It hasn’t yet been revealed what the hotel will be converted into later this year.

On one hand I’ve always assumed this hotel was struggling. Rates were quite low, the hotel rarely seemed to be at capacity, and I was usually just about the only person in the restaurant. While other W Hotels seem to draw a local crowd to the bar and restaurant, this one didn’t seem to.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the area immediately surrounding the W isn’t really “happening,” and I’m guessing they had higher hopes for the neighborhood when it first opened.

It’s not unusual to see hotels either leaving or joining major chains. Sometimes a chain just isn’t a very good “fit” for a particular property, and sometimes I think the owners of hotels are looking for a scapegoat when they’re not doing well, and the easiest party to blame is the one managing the hotel (keep in mind that for the most part the major hotel chains just have management contracts for the properties, which are independently owned by investors).

But the biggest question is how do you convert a W Hotel into something else? W as a brand has a unique style, but between various W properties it’s rather cookie cutter.

W-San-Diego

When the InterContinental Westminster converted into a Conrad, there wasn’t all that much work required to rebrand. With the SLS Las Vegas joining Starwood’s Tribute Collection, virtually no work is required.

But for a brand like W, which has a very clear identity, I’m very curious to see how the transition will happen. The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes:

  • The hotel will be converted into an independent brand and will keep similar decor, which I can’t imagine will improve their bottom line
  • The hotel will be converted into another major brand and will be refreshed slightly, which I still can’t imagine will improve their bottom line
  • They’re planning on closing the hotel at some point and using the building for something else, like condos

W-Hotel-San-Diego-01

Perhaps this is just a reflection of what a crappy hotel market San Diego is on the whole. There are virtually no luxury hotels, and aside from the convention hotels, most other properties seem to be struggling.

Bottom line

I’m sad to see this property leave Starwood. I had always suspected the hotel wasn’t doing especially well, which is more or less confirmed with this announcement. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what they do with the hotel.

Have you stayed at the W San Diego, and if so, are you sad to see it leave the Starwood brand?

Comments

  1. San Diego is a weird hotel market. The nicest hotel is way out in the suburban hills while there is basically nothing nice on or near the beaches. Is there some kind of ordinance preventing from building a high rise on the ocean?

  2. The last time I stayed there the hotel lobby and bar seemed quite popular with the local “escort” crowd.

  3. I thought I had read on another blog that it was moving to Marriott? Did that change? Honestly if this went to the Marrriott portfolio, I wouldn’t be suprised to see it end up as either an Autograph Collection Hotel or a Renaissance. While Renaissance is more muted than W in terms of in your face style, it tends to be trendier and a brand they have used for hip conversions in the past (Kimpton Atlanta comes to mind).

  4. Not a fan of the Andaz or the US Grant? Trying to decide between those two for next month. Is the W superior to both? I’m Hyatt Diamond but no status with SPG.

  5. @ Ben: I recently stayed at the US Grant; the W San Diego just lacks any comparable level of luxury service as it does in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, etc. The location is, indeed, lacking glamor of any kind, but it is only 8 blocks or so from that of the US Grant. The fact that there is a brand new Westin San Diego just TWO blocks from the W is likely the biggest reason that the W can’t draw–the new Westin is much nicer and rates are comparable. The fact that there is a second Westin Gaslamp District just 6 blocks away that is better located also drains business from the W. Basically, SPG has 3 hotels that are as nice or nicer than this W, all of which are either newer, better priced, better located, and/or offer better service. It is that competition which has hurt the W within its own SPG customer base. As it shifts now apparently to a Renaissance, the irony is that Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood means it again will not stand out against those same Starwood hotels PLUS the other Marriott properties in San Diego. It will be doomed as a Renaissance just as much as it was as a W.

    @ Doug: The W is fine…but the US Grant is far superior. The Andaz is pretty reminiscent of the W, but better located (again, just 10-12 blocks away). The Andaz is another club/bar scene hotel, so it can get quite loud–it is what also drew business away from the W, since its location is better suited to what the Andaz/W brands attempt to do/take advantage of. If you like W/Andaz, then you won’t find it sparsely designed/decorated; if you aren’t necessarily a fan of W/Andaz, then you won’t like the Andaz because it’s minimalist. That being said, the US Grant is the best hotel in the city–with fantastic service, unique accommodations (though some will find it too traditional), good location (just on the corner of the main area with restaurants/bars, etc), etc.

  6. The W San Diego is going to be apart of Marriott hotels and turning into a Renaissance hotel. I was actually talking about this hotel yesterday with a friend who is the source of the information.

  7. Agree with Bill. I would never stay at the W over the US Grant or the Westin. US Grant has far better service and despite being traditional I quite like the rooms and decor. And the Westin right around the corner is new so it’s still better than the cheap-feeling W.

  8. — But the biggest question is how do you convert a W Hotel into something else? —

    Try turning up the lights and dialing back the ‘tude

  9. @lucky: “I’m sad to see this property leave Starwood”. Well, Starwood will no longer exist next year. 🙂

  10. The Morrison-a Doubletree Hotel, in Dublin, is reminiscent of a W. I think it was independent before joining the Doubletree family though.

  11. I just checked out of the hotel on Sunday and asked the clerk. She said the hotel will be a Renaissance hotel.

  12. Good riddance. Having both lived in San Diego and travelled there extensively when I lived abroad, I never understood the draw of this hotel. I stayed strictly to accrue SPG points, but would never stay there for any other reason. I thought the rooms were inferior for a W property, and the dodgy area surrounding it always seemed like a mugging was thiiiiiis close to happening at any given moment. Plus, the whole beach/pool rooftop club was obnoxious, tended to be off limits to guests when the hotel was attempting to break into the lame Gas Lamp club/scene, and was particularly useless even when it wasn’t full of horny 20-somethings trying to get laid.

    I’m hoping Marriott will at least attempt to class it up, or just shut it down and convert it to condos.

  13. This hotel has had significant ups and downs over the past decade. Many of us remember when they had to fire sale rooms at $99 for more than a year after 9/11. I think it’s been marginally managed at times and never quite sure of its footing. I always had good stays there, but I know it’s never been the moneymaker that it needed to be

  14. So…. since Marriott is merging/buying Starwood, the only thing that’s going to change is branding? (Of course, there’s going to be a transition period while programs are being merged but long-term it’s still going to be accessible to Starwood members.)

  15. @ande777emt: That’s correct, the Morrison was an independently operated “design hotel” (with original interiors by Irish designer John Rocha when it opened, more than 10 years ago).

    Was quite surprised when it adopted the Doubletree brand, even within Hilton I always thought Curio would be a better fit (but I’m not certain if that sub-brand was operational when the Morrison relaunched). On the plus side I was able to stay there on points+cash last Christmas, which was a nice value.

    I think it would also make a decent Indigo or Kimpton, and I guess a W (but I’m not a fan of that obnoxious brand).

  16. I have stayed here a good 5 times and always found that there was something lacking. Last time we just went to the US Grant which is way better – but also needs a refurb. The area around it is quite dodgy. San Diego is quite weird – we left US Grant for Rancho Valencia outside San Diego and was one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in the USA.

    Re doubletree, they also took over recently a design hotel in Lisbon (fonte Santa). I booked a room recently through BA (a bargain at £3/night inc breakfast, ha) and was surprised I was a doubletree. The hotel was as stylish as before and the staff were very happy. Weird to be given a cookie, though! But still think it would be better as a Curio as others suggested. That said, as Lucky knows, the Sheraton Lisbon shouldn’t be called a Sheraton. Out of this whole merger thing, rebranding that hotel will be one of the good things coming out of it!

  17. my bf and I stayed at the Andaz this past summer. I liked the hotel itself, the room as fantastic! However, the pool bar and the hotel bar were not what I expected. I was very disappointed in those particular items and I feel as though the Andaz will probably not be around much longer. Even though it’s in the downtown Gaslamp area there wasn’t much pedestrian traffic. For a first trip to San Diego I would have probably enjoyed staying along the pier and convention center even though I usually avoid those like the plague.

  18. The W hotel in Hayward was converted to an Aloft a few years ago by removing the minibar and replacing it with a small shop in the lobby.

    The W in San Diego is just in a bad part of town and eclipsed in every way by the much better located Andaz.

  19. There’s plenty of precedent for former Ws undergoing renovations and becoming something else. The W New Orleans (the former one on Poydras St., not the W French Quarter) was renovated and rebranded as a Le Mériden. Having stayed there many times before the change and a few times after, the renovation really wasn’t all that much; new furnishings in the rooms and new paint and carpet, but overall, it wasn’t drastic to change the look, and it happened at a point where the hotel was naturally due for a renovation. There are several former Ws in NYC that have become independent boutique hotels, and one in Atlanta (the former W Atlanta Perimeter) that became unbranded for a while before getting a makeover to a Le Méridien. There’s also the former W Honolulu, which I believe is an independent boutique hotel now as well.

  20. If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in San Diego, you should know better than to stick to downtown. Del Mar and La Jolla have plenty of luxury hotels. L’Auberge in Del Mar for example, is stunning.

  21. It is a Renaissance by Marriott franchised by HEI Hotels, the worst thing that could have ever happened to this building.

    Also, 2014-2015 was one of the best years for the W San Diego, this change has nothing to do with money from the hotel’s earning, it is actually due to the actual structure’s owners not complying with the W Hotels standard (which includes keyless systems, which they don’t want to approve/pay for and also for the weekend DJ) Starwood is planning on opening a new W San Diego within the next 2 years. Stay tuned!

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