RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - A majestic destination up on a mountain, the only 5-star hotel in the valley, or more simply put - the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage.
"We've hired 300 ladies and gentleman. We are in the midst of training them, people in from around the world helping so the energy -- when you open a hotel there is nothing more difficult but nothing more satisfying than opening a hotel successfully," Ritz-carlton Rancho Mirage general manager Doug Watson said.
Many had to see the hotel to believe it - it's been a long time coming.
"The anticipation they have for us coming back is startling. Whenever I go to church or the supermarket, they have a universal message that they can't wait for you to come back," Watson said.
The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage first opened in 1988, and was a showcase in the valley, hosting the rich and famous. In 2001, the hotel went through an ownership and name change and later closed in 2006 to make way for a bigger and better Ritz Carlton. Five years ago, renovation work on the hotel came to a halt when a major investor in the project, Lehman Brothers, went bankrupt.
"We haven't opened a hotel in North America since 2010, since the economy, things are much better today. Opening the first hotel in North America in the last 4 years is special also coming back to the valley is special to the Ritz Carlton," Ritz-carlton area vice president Chris Cabaldon said.
The city of Rancho Mirage is also excited about the opening. They remained loyal to the project, extending a $20 million dollar loan agreement with the company six times since July of 2011. The hotel's opening is happening as the valley is undergoing a resurgence of destination resorts, but Cabaldon said there is only one Ritz Carlton brand and that is what makes them stand above the rest.
"Luxury customers come for the service, the surroundings are beautiful and elegant, what puts it over the top is how the ladies and gentlemen connect with you, dining with us or staying," he said.
The city also knows what it expects - a positive return on the years of investment. It expects to bring in $1 million in transient occupancy tax a year.
"Our doors will be open to all sorts of visitors, tourism, major corporations, families celebrities, all sorts of events. It's going to be a major stream of revenue for our entire valley," Rancho Mirage mayor Iris Smotrich said.
"This hotel has always been part of and so welcomed by the community, so we are excited about that. One of things that make us different is our ability to be a part of the community," Cabaldon said.
On our visit, we saw first hand the hotel furthering its involvement with the community footprints program - hotel staff and Rancho Mirage High School students working together planting a garden at the hotel. All this, showing the Ritz Carlton doesn't just sit on a mountain, but can move them as well.
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