The Pacific Reef Hotel in Gold Beach, Oregon, took entertainment to the next level with its turnkey oceanfront theater that takes guests on a 16-minute trip along the southern coast.
GOLD BEACH, Oregon—Even though most people have never heard of Gold Beach due to its remote location, Gene Pranger had high hopes for the vacation destination when he purchased the Pacific Reef Hotel in 2004.
“I was raised on the Oregon Coast, and I used to go to the coast about once a month growing up,” Pranger said. “I wanted to have a place on the coast, and that's how my wife and I ended up buying what was then the Sand N’ Sea Motel in Gold Beach, Oregon, which is about 30 miles north of the California/Oregon border.”
After purchasing the property, Pranger found out after his first year in operation that the property had a much bigger problem than outdated rooms and systems. He was running 32% occupancy.
“It was just abysmal, to be honest with you,” Pranger said.
At that point, he wanted to figure out what the property could do to improve occupancy and average daily rates. The first thing he did was upgrade all of the hotel’s guestrooms with high-end premium carpets and new furniture. He also made sure that the staff was doing a high-quality job when it came to cleanliness of the rooms.
Last year, Pranger and his team at Pacific Reef Hotel built the business up to 68% occupancy.
While the property enjoyed the occupancy bump, Pranger wanted to make sure he created further demand for the hotel, especially during those seasonal time periods.
“We wanted to make sure we created some further demand for our property because what we found out is that while our occupancy has gone up, our ADR has basically been the same for 11 years,” he said.
Pranger pondered solutions for something unique and memorable for guests. He ultimately decided the hotel, which had about four acres of open coastal land behind it, was a perfect place for entertainment.
“Ultimately I thought about my childhood, and when I was young, my parents used to take us to the drive-in. That was always exciting and fun and new. After 8:00 p.m., there’s nothing to do in the rural town,” Pranger explained.
Capitalizing on that thought, he came up with the idea of building some kind of screen on property so guests had something to do at night while visiting.
“We went through one iteration that would cost us well in excess of a million dollars just for the engineering and structure itself. What we ended up doing is getting this permeable glass that is see-through during the day and opaque during the evening hours,” Pranger said.
Once Pranger decided on the all-weather permeable glass screen, which was aptly named the Pacific Reef Adventure Theater, he began the nine-month production process with an outside videographer to create a 16-minute video that would take guests on a tour of the southern Oregon coast.
The production process included using helicopters in the air and boats in the water to help capture all the interesting activities and sites to see along the coast, Pranger explained.
“The tour that we take the guest on is mapped on an actual map that is given to guests when they check in so they can see things they can do along the southern Oregon Coast,” he added.
The theater finished production last October, and so far, the response has been positive, Pranger said. The property has seen a 20% overall bump in total number of reservations and Pranger expects a $10 bump in ADR, but that has yet to be determined.
The turnkey one-of-a-kind theater is included as an amenity for all guests staying on property at the Pacific Reef Hotel, which offers oceanfront and economy rooms. With the oceanfront units, guests can view the screen from their rooms. Guests staying in the economy rooms can take advantage of outdoor seating, along with other public viewing areas on property.
Reinvesting for the market
Pranger has more plans for the hotel, including a holiday production later this year that will include lights and newly produced video at the theater.
But it doesn’t stop with the oceanfront theater. Pranger also has plans for the property’s onsite restaurant the Chowder House, which is known for its fish-and-chips and chowder.
“We want to create a chef’s culinary tour of the southern Oregon coast,” he said, adding that the aim is to give guests a taste of the ocean and organic farms in the area.
For Pranger, investing in the property to maintain profitability is always top of mind.
“Reinvestment in this business is not as harsh on (me and my wife) because we have other businesses,” he said.
Each year, Pranger invests 40% of the property’s net revenue back into the property, he added.