The Los Angeles hotel market has improved considerably over the past year, with occupancy rates on the rise, renovations underway, one new hotel under construction and talk of some major new hotel developments in the not-too-distrant future.

"Although there is nothing yet signed, there are lots of prospects in various stages for new (hotel) development," said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County.

Any major new hotel development activity would be the first Los Angeles has seen in more than five years, according to this week's List. The newest hotels among the 50 largest in Los Angeles County are the Hotel Inter-Continental in downtown L.A. and the Red Lion Hotel in Glendale, both of which were completed in 1992.

So while the List of L.A.'s largest hotels has remained essentially static in recent years, that situation may change in the years to come.

Likely sites for major new hotel construction are Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City and possibly near the Los Angeles Convention Center.

"The market is real strong at this time," said Bruce Baltin, senior vice president at PKF Consulting. "The growth (in hotel room demand) allows for improvements at many hotels throughout the Los Angeles area, many of which were deferred during the recession. Now, as the market recovers, the owners are taking some of the money that's being made and putting it back into the hotels."

The only new full-service hotel being built in Los Angeles County is a 250-room Hyatt in Valencia, Baltin said. "We've only been in recovery for two years, but even in other parts of the country, there are no big hotels being built in major cities at this time."

According to Larry Kantor of Arthur Andersen LLP, the Westin Bonaventure in downtown L.A. will not be displaced any time soon from its long-held perch atop the List "because it's not economically feasable and there is not sufficient demand, with the exception of a hotel for the Convention Center, to add more hotels."

Since it first opened in 1976, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites has been the largest hotel in Los Angeles County, based on the number of guest rooms.

The Westin Bonaventure's 15 percent increase in bookings to date from the like year-earlier period is tied to increased bookings at the convention center, said the hotel's general manager, Bob Graney. "Projections for next year show that the first six months will be the best for us in 10 years, which again, is tied into events at the convention center.

"These increased bookings are the fruition of efforts of the last few years, which goes to show that turning the market takes time but we knew it would happen," he said.

Additionally, the hotel's multimillion-dollar renovation is ongoing with its lobby, front desk, fountains and elevators currently being updated.

"We will finalize the renovation this fall by adding new carpeting, wallpaper, drapery, bedspreads and re-upholstery on furniture in the 1,300 guest rooms to complete the entire renovation process, which began two years ago," Graney said.

The county's third-largest hotel Century Plaza Hotel & Tower is experiencing strong demand for rooms, particularly for business meetings, said Tim Groves, its director of sales and marketing.

"Coupled with a recent rate increase and reservations from groups that want to come to Los Angeles, we are expecting a strong second half of the year," Groves said.

A multimillion-dollar renovation is planned for 750 guest rooms within the Century Plaza's main building and the nine suites located within the Tower, Groves said. "The renovation will run between $12 million and $17 million, as plans are being finalized at this time."

The renovation project is set to begin Nov. 1 and be completed by next March.

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