LARKSPUR -- Karl Hoagland founded Larkspur Hospitality Development and Management Company in 1996.  With its financial partner, the new company developed 16 extended-stay properties (Larkspur Landing hotels) in suburban California, Oregon and Washington. He previously worked for Montgomery Securities in San Francisco, specializing in the gaming and lodging industry, working for clients such as Doubletree, Red Lion, La Quinta, and Marriott, among others.

Q.  What tourism opportunities do you see for Marin County in the near future, and what would you say the Larkspur Group’s involvement will be?

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A. As an easily reached extension to San Francisco, Marin has location and natural beauty, coastal front land, parks, home of organics, food/wine, better weather, etc.  Marin should tap into the demand for San Francisco working in collaboration with SF Travel (formerly SFCVB) to align with their goals of getting in-bound leisure travelers to extend their stay and return more often. The financial resources to spend on marketing both San Francisco and Marin are limited and Larkspur will work to collaborate with those that sell and market the city and combine resources whenever possible.

Q. How do you plan on capitalizing on the America's Cup when it comes to San Francisco?

A. We at Larkspur are creating a stay package that encourages those who will be frustrated with the high rates, high cost in parking, etc. in particular over America’s Cup and other high demand dates to instead stay in suburban located hotels such as our Larkspur Hotel Mill Valley – with easy access to all of the events in San Francisco, the additional benefit of outdoor access to hiking, biking and less price gauging on parking, etc.

Q. Marin is known for its natural beauty, but it’s not always the first place that comes to mind for tourism. What can be done to change that perception for customers and hospitality related businesses?

A. San Francisco has driven much of its success through having repeated large events that draw hundreds of thousands such as: Bay to Breakers, Fleet Week, Gay Pride Weekend, and second tier events that drive traffic including Chinese New Year and Outside Lands and Treasure Island Music Festival, among others. We in Marin should consider combining dollars or working in collaboration with SF Travel to promote the region including Marin, build at least one significant annual Marin event. Given organics was founded here in Marin County – we should have our own version of Aspen Food and Wine – we’ve got the space, the best chefs in the world, we’ve got Marin Organics – we need someone to champion it, plan it and we need corporate sponsor dollars.

Q. Does the Larkspur Group have intentions to acquire or operate other properties in the North Bay, maybe in Sonoma or Napa counties? Elsewhere? What, in general, are Larkpsur’s plans for growth?

A. Larkspur is seeking growth opportunities via acquisition and third-party management of existing hotels and restaurants, and to a lesser extent new development opportunities.  We own and/or operate 17 hotels, primarily in Northern California under three Larkspur hotel brands spanning three-to-four-star experiences, with locations in suburban, urban and resort settings.  We want to grow our platform and are actively seeking opportunities in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties.

Q. The hospitality industry took a big hit throughout the recession. While each market of course varies, how would you describe the health of the industry as the economy recovers, both statewide and in the Bay Area?

A. The economy has been extremely challenging in recent years, especially for our sector.  But looking forward we see many reasons for optimism – 2010 was the bottom of the cycle in the Bay Area and 2011 saw double-digit revenue increases across all of our hotels, and that momentum is carrying into 2012.  We see positive demand catalysts for increased travel through 2013 in our region, and the supply side of the equation is very muted -- no significant new hotel development is foreseen in our markets through at least 2014 -- which bodes well for hotel industry fundamentals.  The biggest risks are the issues facing state and local governments and the disincentives to businesses in our state. We need bold and strong political leadership to address these issues for Marin’s and California’s future.