The Coast Is Clear


Clearwater’s Beach Walk

Hyatt Clearwater sits at the center of the new $30 million Beach Walk.


Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast is clear! The Deepwater Horizon oil well has been successfully capped, and coastal resorts are celebrating the end of a challenging summer. While little, if any, oil washed up on Florida beaches, many visitors still stayed away.  

A recent report by Visa showed a 42 percent decline in Gulf regional tourism spending between May and June this year; Florida’s tourism spending by Visa card holders was down 35 percent during the same period. Still, Visit Florida advertised heavily during the height of the crisis, which helped. Visit Florida’s preliminary second quarter statistics show domestic visitation was up 2.4 percent and Canadian visitation was up 10.4 percent, compared to the previous year. Overseas visitation also increased. 

But Visit Florida acknowledges that many Gulf Coast tourism entities have suffered sizably. The good news is that the well is capped and cooler weather has arrived in much of the country. So clients may be ready for a Florida vacation getaway. Here’s a sampling of hospitality news and updates. 

Northwest Florida

Jimmy Buffett’s first Margaritaville Beach Hotel opened this summer on 800 acres of Pensacola Beach waterfront. Parrot heads will love the 162-room property’s barefoot elegance feel and rooftop pool with panoramic water views. Fun venues include Land Shark Landing, the hotel’s aptly named outdoor beach pavilion with ping-pong tables and hammocks. The menus for the adjacent Frank and Lola Love Pensacola Cafe are now available online. Yes, clients can order a cheeseburger in paradise!

The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin has a new expanded Ropes Course for active adults and children in the Adventure Zone of the resort’s Village of Baytowne Wharf. Besides appealing to couples, singles and families, the new facilities are utilized during team-building programs for groups and companies. 

Following a $3.4-million, three-year-long renovation, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa now has new Deluxe Junior suites in its Emerald Tower. They come with elegant new furnishings, a soothing blue and green color palette, a media center addition in the children’s private bunk-bed alcove, a second phone line for each room, premium linens and new outdoor patio furniture. A recently completed second phase of renovation has introduced similar updates in the Spa Tower. 

West Central Florida

Sporting classic yet contemporary West Indies styling, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa is the centerpiece of Clearwater’s Beach Walk, a $30 million revitalization project with dining, shopping and entertainment along a half-mile pathway. The resort’s 250 studio, one- and two-bedroom suites have full kitchens and private balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The eighth-floor pool deck is home to 20 air-conditioned poolside cabanas.

The TradeWinds Island Grand on St. Pete Beach is in the midst of a $10 million facelift of guest rooms and suites. All beachfront accommodations, including rooms, one-bedroom suites and penthouses in the 288-room Jacaranda building have already been renovated; the remaining accommodations will be updated by late 2011.

Also on St. Pete Beach, Loews Don CeSar Beach Resort opened the $11 million Spa Oceana, an 11,000-square-foot spa and salon. It specializes in such marine-based treatments as the SeaLuminous Brightening Facial and Spice Island Massage.

The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay has renovated its pool bar—enlarging it and adding flat-screen TVs, more seating and awnings. The hotel also renovated its boardwalk, gazebo and decks, and installed fire pits on the deck and beach area of Oystercatchers restaurant. 

The new $25 million, 135-room Holiday Inn Sarasota Airport welcomes guests with a six-story atrium, glass elevators and a waterfall. Hotel amenities include a fitness center, spa, indoor pool, steam room, sauna and outside cabana area. Families may appreciate the Kids Suites, which have a room with bunk beds for the kids and separate bedroom for parents.

The Longboat Key Club is embarking on a $400 million redevelopment that will feature: a Rees Jones-redesigned 18-hole golf course; a new five-star hotel with 196 rooms and 76 private residences; a new Wellness Center with enhanced spa, fitness facilities and rooftop lap pool; a new meeting center; new golf clubhouse, restaurant, and pro shop; additional residences; landscaping and pedestrian walkways; new swimming pools, including a kids’ pool; and four new tennis courts.

Southwest Florida and the Keys

The new 19-story Resort at Marina Village—a SunStream Hotels & Resort property—at the Tarpon Point Marina in Cape Coral comes with views of the Caloosahatchee River, San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Guests have a choice of studios and multi-bedroom suites. Amenities include boat slips, waterfront dining and shopping.

A favorite of luxury clients, the Ritz-Carlton, Naples has added $6 million worth of updates. A new interactive entertainment lounge called “vue” fields virtual-reality games played via consoles hooked up to 40” LCD TVs. Gaming and tech enthusiasts will love the Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite game stations with wireless controllers, as well as Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. In addition, vue has a 63-inch LCD TV.

The Ritz-Carlton also has a new Sushi Bar with a 150-gallon fish tank, upgraded facilities at its Gumbo Limbo casual restaurant and a new Sand Bar with a Tiki roof, hand-carved wooden bar and cypress-stump chairs.

The LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort has upgraded its guest rooms with new bed linens, decor and fresh paint. Poolside cabana furnishings have also been updated. Baleen, the resort’s restaurant, has new chandeliers, chairs and a large group dining table.

Opening this month in Key West, the Silver Palms Inn, a luxury boutique hotel, will have 50 deluxe contemporary guest rooms and suites surrounding a courtyard, deck and pool. Guests will have access to in-room microwaves, refrigerators, 40-inch LCD TVs and free Wi-Fi and wired Internet access. Another perk? Double pillow-top mattresses with 310-thread-count sheets as well as hypoallergenic pillows and duvets.


Margaritaville Beach Hotel

The 162-room Margaritaville Beach Hotel opened this summer on 800 acres of Pensacola Beach waterfront.



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