One of Arizona’s legendary resorts, the Sheraton San Marcos Golf Resort and Conference Center in Chandler, will drop its nationallyrecognized brand affiliation on Sept. 1.
The resort chose to let go of the Sheraton brand as it faces a sour economy and unprecedented competition, said Gary Stougaard, vice president of development for Sunstone Hotels, which owns the San Marcos.
Stougaard also said his company has shown the San Marcos to interested buyers, saying Sunstone — which put more than $6 million in renovations into the property — is "passively" marketing the hotel but not actively trying to sell it.
The San Marcos, established in 1913, is a national and state historic building and anchor for the struggling downtown area. Conferencegoers and resort visitors feed into local businesses.
Some downtown merchants said they’re not worried about the name change. Barbara Peonio, owner of home decor store Timbuktu Imports, said most locals think of it as the San Marcos and not as a Sheraton, so it may not deter Valley residents who hold some of the conventions there.
Sandi Ottley, owner of the downtown restaurant Razleberries, said the resort has national recognition on its own.
"The San Marcos has such a good name anyhow," she said.
Claudia Whitehead, Chandler’s downtown coordinator, said she would prefer the resort keep its national brand affiliation but the hotel still can be a tourist attraction with skillful marketing.
"Anytime you have a nationally recognized name associated with your hotels, that adds a lot of benefits to it as far as name recognition for people who are traveling," Whitehead said. "The San Marcos is vital to the downtown area."
National hotel companies such as Sheraton often will lend their brand to hotels that remain owned and operated by others. Such arrangements usually come at a significant cost and require that hotels meet certain service quality standards.
Sunstone Hotels chose to let go of the Sheraton name because it was not helping the resort, Stougaard said. With new hotels popping up in the surrounding area and the struggling tourism industry in the past few years, San Marcos’ sales have slowed. It didn’t seem that the Sheraton name was bringing in any additional business, Stougaard said.
"There’s so much new supply in the Valley," he said. "Hotels that didn’t compete with us in the past are now competing with us."
National travelers seeking Sheraton accommodations also hear about several other newer resorts less than 10 miles away from the center of Chandler. One of them is the new Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, a 500-room luxury hotel that opened in the Gila River Indian Community just a few miles southwest of Chandler’s border.
Though there has been talk that the Sheraton flag could be replaced with another, general manager Jeff Hammermeister said the resort may stay independent.
Sheraton has been part of the name since 1987, about 11 years before Sunstone bought the resort. Company officials did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.