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Great things are happening in Huntington Beach! 

Change on Menu for Montage, Waterfront Hilton

Two of Orange County’s premium oceanfront resorts are seeing changes—and not just physical.

Montage Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach’s Waterfront Hilton Beach Resort have both wrapped large renovations this year; valued at more than $150 million combined.

Now the heavy lifting in terms of operational changes begins.

Two female general managers are leading the charge: one was among the first employees at her hotel; the other is the first female GM in her luxe hotel company’s 16-year history.

Both oversaw long-planned, large-scale renovations in the past year that added amenities that were aimed to bring a more boutique, independent vibe to their respective branded hotel properties.

Montage’s Anne-Marie Houston calls herself “fortunate” to “work for a brand … open to creativity.”

Waterfront’s Paulette Fischer said, “Customers are looking for properties with a more residential feel.”

Work Parties

Renovations at the properties include spa upgrades, especially at Waterfront Hilton. It opened its new 8,000-square-foot Drift Spa in October, wrapping up a three-year renovation that began with the addition of a new tower where rooms run about $300 a night.

The expansion was the largest change for the hotel since it opened in 1990, Fischer said.

She said hotel owner Robert Mayer Corp. in Irvine gave execs “a lot of autonomy” on the changes, from offering annual $4,600 memberships at the spa—aimed at the local market—to decorating anew each month a large, selfie-friendly Adirondack chair in the lobby.

Public and private spaces got a multi-million dollar makeover at the Montage, where room nights average around $700. New spa elements range from sustainable to superfluous—a diamond facial, for example.

As hotel guests become more savvy and shy away from experiences they’ve already had, Fischer and Houston have their work cut out for them in terms of amping up the originality and wow factor.

High Rise

Waterfront Hilton was among the first hotels in Huntington Beach, one element of local hospitality visionary Robert Mayer Sr.’s decades-long contributions to remaking the city’s beachfront.

Fischer checked the first guest in nearly 30 years ago.

“It was my first job right out of high school.”

She grew up around hotels here and in Hawaii—her mom was in the industry in Maui—and Fischer considered it “dynamic, interesting … work [that] became my biggest passion.”

She worked her way up through every department and was named GM in 2014.

Her favorite part of the job has always been the front desk interaction with customers that she experienced in her first position at the hotel; she said she tries to remain involved at the front desk, and has frequent contact with many of the resort’s repeat customers.


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