Opening a hotel is no easy feat at any time. Opening two hotels during a global pandemic is exponentially more difficult. That’s the job that fell to Michael Stephens, area managing director for The Seabird Resort, which has 226 rooms and 20,000 square feet of ocean-view meeting and event space, and Mission Pacific Hotel, with 161 rooms and 13,000 square feet of meeting space, including the Pacific Garden—a lush green lawn that’s just steps from the beach and can accommodate more than 300 guests. The two adjacent boutique-style properties opened in Oceanside in May 2021.

Stephens shared his experience with California Meetings + Events.

It’s quite an achievement to open two hotels in the middle of a pandemic. What were the biggest challenges you faced? 
Opening two boutique hotels with completely different, yet very distinct identities within a week of each other and during a global pandemic posed so many unique challenges for us. The amount of work behind opening a hotel is enormous (not to mention opening two), however fortunately we built an incredible team and we achieved our goal all together. Oceanside is a very tight-knit town, so there were some initial apprehensions about the opening of two new hotels in the community, and respectfully so. To support the local community as well as showcase the creative spirit and abundance of homegrown talent here in Oceanside, we rapidly developed strong local partnerships from the very beginning. To this day, fully engaging and embracing the local community has been our number one priority and will continue to be so. 

How did your two decades of experience as a general manager prepare you for these challenges? 
Fortunately, I've had my fair share of experience with hotel openings, so I was able to leverage my innate knowledge of the process to successfully open these two new adjacent hotels. Being able to pull from my diverse hotel background which spans globally, further helped me to view the challenges we faced from varying perspectives and find a streamlined solution that would benefit all parties involved.  

What are you enjoying most about your new role? 
The people we have hired. Our employees are truly passionate about Oceanside and are great ambassadors for not only the hotels, but the amazing community of Oceanside that is going through a major renaissance. It's been nothing short of fun to be a part of this iconic project. 

What would you like meeting planners to know about the Mission Pacific Hotel and The Seabird Resort? 
We are situated right on the beachfront (behind the historic Oceanside Pier) in a prime location, halfway between San Diego International Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Plus, you can even arrive by train with access from both downtown LA and downtown San Diego. The train station is only 1.5 blocks away and both The Seabird and Mission Pacific offer complimentary transport to and from the Oceanside Transportation Center. Right outside our door, you can surf, skate, whale watch, bike, enjoy a phenomenal arts & culture scene (Oceanside is located within one of California's first 14 cultural districts) and not to mention, a burgeoning culinary destination where talented young chef's travel to the city to deliver authentic culinary experiences, in a casual, yet memorable setting. 

What are some of the key things the properties are doing to make group meetings comfortable and safe for planners and attendees?
The safety of our guests and employees is a top priority for us. For this reason, we have placed hand sanitizer stations throughout the hotel and meeting spaces. In addition, all our table settings in our event spaces do not use linens, making them much easier to clean and sanitize the surfaces. Our highly trained staff follow strict property protocols and sanitize all meeting spaces and equipment, our culinary team is also highly knowledgeable in executing safe dining experiences. Additionally, our open air, breezy and abundant meeting spaces are ideally designed to naturally spread people out and provide seamless access to the outside. Many of our meeting spaces allow for fresh ocean air to directly circulate into our rooms. You can't beat an oceanfront meeting setting. ​

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