Q&A with Tom Donovan - Pelican Hill Resort


Last year Tom Donovan joined The Resort at Pelican Hill as Managing Director. As the resort approaches 
its ten year anniversary, Donovan shares his thoughts on what makes for the best guest experience 
and how The Resort at Pelican Hill continues to offer vacationers the ultimate luxury stay. 

Photography courtesy of Pelican Hill

Photography courtesy of Pelican Hill

You have worked at world class properties including the Ritz Carlton, so what sets the Resort at Pelican Hill apart? 

The Resort at Pelican Hill represents all encompassing luxury. There are no other coastal luxury resorts that I know of in the United States that offer so many award winning amenities including golf, spa, dining, wedding venue and recreation on site. 

Since joining as Managing Director last year, what has been your signature impact on the resort? 

Let me preface my answer with the fact that this resort was pretty perfect when I was hired so there wasn’t much room for improvement. However, I am a firm believer in staff engagement and I have worked to establish a warm and personable employee culture throughout the property. Even the landscape staff are encouraged to lift their heads up from their work to offer a warm friendly greeting to passersby. I want everyone on property to feel noticed. It’s the small things that create a lasting impact. 

Tom Donovan

Tom Donovan

How would you profile today’s luxury hotel guest and compare to a decade ago when the resort first opened? 

The needs and preferences of guests who check into a luxury resort today are very different than they were ten years ago. Health and wellness has emerged as a prevalent culture and that orientation has brought forth new requests and requirements. Our chefs are all willing to accommodate any menu modifications to comport with guests’ dietary preferences. We have also expanded our fitness offerings to extend beyond our exercise facility. For example, we may offer more yoga classes with ocean views for that total zen experience. 

What else about the resort has changed since the original opening? 

The most obvious and important change has been regarding technology. We are a 500 acre property but we want to ensure that our guests have wifi connection throughout. Our broadband width is quite robust. We also take advantage of technology to ensure the most efficient guest request accommodations. Guests can text our staff for anything and expect a prompt response. Of course, if they prefer to go their rooms and use the landline to call housekeeping or room service, that option is always available. But if you’re heading back to your bungalow or villa and want a chilled bottle of something waiting for you, it’s nice to be able to shoot off a text and know it will be taken care of. 

What is the most popular resort amenity? 

Although we have a two magnificent Tom Fazio designed ocean view golf courses and an award winning spa which are popularly enjoyed, the number one most used amenity is our circular Coliseum Pool. Everyone loves our pool scene. 

What aspect of the resort are you most proud of? 

I am really proud of the resort’s environmental consciousness. This property has been recognized for its irrigation runoff capture system and we are even in Golf Magazine’s “Green Golf Resorts Hall of Fame.” 


Rita Goldberg

Rita Goldberg, Editor-In-Chief, hails from New York, where she earned her degree from New York University’s School of Journalism and launched her career on the press room floor of Women’s Wear Daily. A long time resident of Newport Beach, she has served as Founding Editor for several prominent magazines and collaborated on two editions of The Art Lover’s Cook Book. She is a well ingrained community member of Coastal Orange County and is a Founding Board Member of The Newport Beach Film Festival and past Chair of The Newport Beach City Arts Commission. She brings over 20 years of professional journalism and editorial experience to Joli Magazine. A mother of three, during her spare time, she enjoys hiking, biking and taking advantage of the beautiful Southern California lifestyle.