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Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort Talks Important History and Committed Fans

Every hotel has those guests that just keep coming back. What are some of the qualities of your hotel that keep the business of your committed fans?

A very large percentage of guests return to the Alisal Guest Ranch year after year – some going back to the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. In Alisal terms, this means that they return every year, for the same time period, occupy the same guest room, sit at the same table in the dining room, ride the same horse, etc. Alisal guests return because their emotional attachment to the Ranch is very strong and we have become an important part of their family tradition.

Perhaps the most prominent quality that engenders this loyalty is the guests’ sense that the Ranch does not change. Whether it is because we have no televisions or telephones in our guest rooms, we require gentlemen 16 and older to wear jackets to dinner, we play Bingo every Friday night, we have musical chairs and country dancing every on Saturday night, or because one server has taken care of a particular family at dinner for 15 consecutive years, the specific attachments vary from guest to guest. Clearly, we do change, but we do so in a thoughtful way that it does not jeopardize the values that have been in place for the past 67 years and for which the Alisal has become known. A primary reason for this continuity stems from the fact that the Alisal Guest Ranch has been privately owned and operated by the same family for its entire life.  The Ranch has just transitioned into the third generation of ownership and there are no significant changes planned in the foreseeable future.

Another quality that promotes strong guest loyalty is the relationship that often develops between and guests and employees. The Alisal is much less concerned about production and efficiency than it is about having happy and engaged employees who serve our guests in a heart-felt manner. We want our guests to notice the person who is checking them in to the Ranch, who is serving them in the dining room, who is leading their horseback ride, who is cleaning their room, and so forth. It is common for guests to request a certain employee because they bonded with him or her the year before.

Finally, I believe that guest loyalty is prompted by the fact that the Alisal feels like “a step back in time.” For many guests, the Alisal hearkens back to a simpler time when things moved more slowly, when our lives were not so driven by technology and when relationships mattered.  The Alisal does not concern itself with keeping up with the latest trends and this is very appealing to many of our guests.

Hotels often hold a lot of important history. Tell us about some of the historical aspects of your hotel that make it a landmark in your area. 

The Alisal is an original Spanish Land Grant. It was awarded to Raimundo Carrillo in 1843, 100 years before the current owners purchased the land on which the Alisal Guest Ranch presently resides.  Carrillo received the 13,500-acre grant for his services to the newly established Mexican government. The sole focus of the land for many years was raising cattle. Horses had also been essential to the cattle economy of the Alisal since its earliest days. However, the relative importance of horses escalated when Charles E. Perkins purchased the Alisal in 1927 and devoted his attention to the raising of thoroughbred horses. Perkin’s Alisal in fact raised Kentucky Derby winner, Flying Ebony, as well as other well known horses. We now run over 100 horses at the Alisal on a year-round basis for guest riding.

In 1943, the Jackson Family, the present owners, purchased the land and expanded the reputation of the Ranch in an entirely new direction – hospitality. Originally, the Jackson’s purchased the Alisal solely as a working cattle ranch. However, soon thereafter, they upgraded the cattlemen’s quarters and opened the Ranch to outside guests on July 16, 1946. Originally, the Alisal Guest Ranch was open for summer guests only but due to its immediate success, the owners elected to open on a year-round basis. Since then, it has been the vacation home for many families including Clark Gable who married Lady Silvia in the Alisal’s old library and Doris Day who was featured with her family in a prominent Hollywood magazine during one of her regular visits to the Ranch. Though the Alisal has always tried to maintain a low profile and does not boast about its distinguished tradition, its reputation has spread far and wide and that is reflected in its popularity today.

If you could choose one adjective to describe your hotel, what would it be and why?

Bucolic

The Alisal Guest Ranch is located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley among the beautiful coastal hills of central California.  The Ranch is composed of 10,600 acres of wide open spaces and unspoiled natural beauty where time seems reluctant to move forward. The thunder of hooves and the songs of cowboys still echo across acres of idyllic countryside.

To learn more about The Alisal Guest Ranch, visit their Haute Hotel Network Profile.

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