March 17 Opening, California’s Newest Luxury Resort

Opening March 17, 2021 as the Alila brand’s first new-build resort in the Americas, the 130-room Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas has announced its core executive team members who will support General Manager Benjamin Thiele. Defining barefoot luxury, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will be committed to locally inspired programming and will also feature an oceanfront pool, signature restaurant VAGA helmed by James Beard Award Semifinalist Chef Claudette Zepeda, more than 28,500 square feet of expansive, distinctive indoor-outdoor meetings and event spaces, and Spa Alila, a serene spa and wellness experience that will infuse the ocean’s healing attributes throughout.

“It’s a challenging time amid a pandemic to be opening a new hotel right now but we’re confident we’ve assembled an outstanding team of passionate leaders who will inevitably set up the foundation and guide the resort to success for years to come,” said General Manager Benjamin Thiele. “The team’s tuned-in knowledge of the destination, impressive number of collective years and experience working in the luxury hospitality space will undoubtedly be reflected in the property’s efforts to bring authentic, local experiences and unscripted, personalized attention to this world-class beachfront resort.” 

Robert Harter | Director of Sales and Marketing 

As Director of Sales and Marketing, Robert Harter oversees the resort’s sales and marketing efforts while developing business strategies designed to successfully open the resort, drive revenue and exceed the resort’s business goals. Harter brings more than 25 years of experience in hospitality management and is a veteran sales and marketing leader in the San Diego’s luxury hotel market, most recently, serving as director of sales and marketing at L’Auberge Del Mar. 

Jaime Klein | Director of Leisure Sales

A leader in the luxury travel industry with a proven track record of partnering with and leading global sales efforts, Jaime Klein will be responsible for the implementation of key sales strategies and execution of global sales efforts as a key liaison for the travel agency community in her new role as Director of Leisure Sales. Throughout her more than 15-year hospitality career, Klein has led several corporate sales teams for marquee lifestyle properties including her most recent position as Regional Entertainment Sales Director for the Sydell Group where she oversaw The LINE L.A., NoMad Los Angeles and Freehand Los Angeles. 

Michael Savastano | Director of Operations

Michael Savastano’s lifelong passion for elevated hospitality has led him to pivotal leadership roles at eight successful properties throughout the world, including Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, Grand Hyatt New York and Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, where he led the development of Hyatt’s only “hotel within the hotel” concept, The Reserve. With previous experience in Asia, Mexico, Colombia, the Bahamas and throughout the United States, Savastano will bring his global expertise and knowledge to the property’s day-to-day operations. 

Emma Spencer | Director of Spa and Wellbeing

Originally from the U.K., Emma Spencer brings more than 20 years of global spa and hospitality experience having worked previously with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts where she helped launch the brand’s signature Willow Stream Spa and achieved the “Leader of the Year” award. Prior to joining the Spa Alila team, Spencer also opened the Forbes Five-Star rated Majorelle Spa at the Hotel Californian. As Director of Spa and Wellbeing for Spa Alila, Spencer will be responsible for delivering unique and customized holistic treatments inspired by the healing and wellness attributes of the ocean while also curating the resort’s wellness programming including beachfront yoga classes, morning group runs along the coast, nature hikes and more.

Food & Beverage

Helming the property’s three distinct dining destinations including the resort’s signature restaurant, VAGA Restaurant & Bar, is San Diego native and award-winning Executive Chef Claudette Zepeda who has brought together an all-star culinary team. 

“The addition of Bill, Chris and Alex to our team means Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will have three of the best in the industry, supporting our goal to bring an incredible dining experience to our guests,” said Executive Chef Claudette Zepeda. “They are all skilled at their craft with vast experience both locally and nationally. I’m confident their expertise and imaginations will help us drive innovation and continual growth that will contribute to make our culinary offerings truly special.”

Bill McKinney | Director of Food & Beverage 

With more than 20 years of global and regional experience, Bill McKinney will oversee the hotel’s concepts alongside food and beverage programs including VAGA Restaurant & Bar, The Pocket and Coffee Box.  Throughout his 20-year career, McKinney has opened over 15 restaurants and bars all over the US and Europe, most recently as Regional Director of Operations for Kimpton Restaurants & Bars where he oversaw multiple restaurant and bar concepts spanning from the Northeast territory to California and Arizona.

Chris Simmons | Director of Outlets

With an impressive restaurant management background of building world-class bar and cocktail programs in Southern California, Chris Simmons is a Level Two Master Mezcalier and is a Certified Catador, obtaining his title from the Mexican Academy of Tequila Tasters led by the highly respected Francisco Hajnal. Simmons has also earned Sommelier certifications through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). Prior to joining the Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas culinary team, Simmons is most recognized for developing the notable Agave Club at the award-winning Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa as well as the Agave Dinner Series featured at Celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey’s handful of San Diego restaurants. 

Alex Gregg | Beverage Manager

A Texas native with deep Southern California roots, Alex Gregg is an active member of the beverage community as he’s known to regularly give classes and seminars to local bartenders, host regular charity events, and has donated his time and talents to various events. As Beverage Manager at Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, Gregg looks forward to showcasing his clean and elegant approach to culinary-inspired cocktails while spotlighting local, seasonal fresh fruits and local beers and spirits.  

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