Magazine

Hotel del Coronado: World Class Hotel, World Class Parking

John Van Horn


The Hotel del Coronado is one of the most recognizable properties in the U.S. The background for countless movies, including "Some Like It Hot' and "The Stuntman," it is truly a destination location, whether to stay or just to visit the historic site.
The Del, just across the bay from downtown San Diego, is currently implementing a $10-million guestroom renovation, ensuring that this beautiful resort is just as breathtaking today as it was when it opened its doors more than 100 years ago.
Jadd Elkeshen, Director of Guest Services, needed more than new paint and floor coverings, however. He was looking to turn the parking operation at The Del into something that was state-of-the-art and easy for guests.
Half a year after installation of a new parking system, Elkeshen is cautiously satisfied. "We have learned a lot and would have done things differently if we had to do it over." Would they have installed the same equipment and system? "Most likely yes. Our experience has been a positive one, for both guests and our staff."
The Del went from an unautomated ticket in/cashier out system to the highest level of parking control, including online validation, tight valet tracking, and automated entrance and exit for guests (system provided by Secom International).
The Hotel del Coronado is a designated National Historic Landmark. As such, adding equipment such as card and ticket readers, gates and dispensers was challenging, because all external changes must meet certain standards. The housings for much of the equipment had to be customized to fit the hotel's decor.
Self-park guests pull a ticket and have it validated online at the front desk. Upon departure, they can either use the ticket in an auto read at exit or give it to the cashier, who processes and returns it for entrance use until the final checkout.
When the ticket is validated at the front desk, it is given a checkout date and kept upon exit at that date.
Valet parkers receive a two-part ticket. One goes with the parker and is validated at the front desk; the other stays with the keys. Once the ticket is validated, the other one with the keys is authorized for exit. Self-park daily guests have their fees collected at a cashier in one lot, and can use a pay-on-foot facility in another.
The valet operation is extremely tight. When a valet is dispatched to pick up a vehicle, he takes the car keys and validated ticket with him. Upon exit, the valet uses that ticket to open the exit gate. However, it will not work unless a valid proximity fob (dangling from the valet's wrist) is presented with the ticket. This not only increases security, but also enables the parking manager to track valet activity and productivity.
In the large surface lot to the rear of the hotel, parkers either have their tickets validated (hotel guests or those making purchases in the hotel) or pay at a pay-on-foot machine in the lot. Delivery vehicles are given free parking, but must have their tickets validated at the delivery entrance to the hotel.
"Most organizations like ours consider parking as a service to the guests," Elkeshen said. "The new equipment has allowed us to consider all the aspects of this part of our operation and ensure that our guests do come first.
"What about guest deliveries? Sometimes guests need deliveries to their rooms. A longer grace period for these types of deliveries solved the problem.
"Of course, that could cause another concern," he noted. "What about visitors who come to the hotel simply to visit our historic site? We wanted to be certain there was no confusion concerning parking and its cost. Setting the grace period too long can make it difficult for visitors to understand. We ensured that good signage and proper grace period policy made our parking operation easy to use and understand.
"We had to take our restaurant into consideration," Elkeshen said. "The beauty of the system is that we can now track just how long people stay in the restaurant and adjust the validations so they are covered and aren't charged for parking after joining us for a meal. It gives us excellent management information for planning, and once again, ensures our guests are treated graciously.
"If I had anything to do over? I would have gone to hotel locations where the system was installed and talked to the management there," Elkeshen said. "I would have learned about the many changes that would happen to the hotel when these types of systems go online.
"My main recommendation to others? Train your staff, including your front desk staff, on the intricacies of the system. For instance, if a hotel guest is self-parked, they need to have their ticket validated at the front desk to expedite their exit. Our training program ensures that quick mention of parking is made by the desk staff," Elkeshen said. "This makes for a more pleasant stay for our guests."


Article Abstract from March, 2005




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