ULI Tampa Bay News

Destination Tampa Bay! Trends in Hospitality

By Keith Greminger | Kimley-Horn & Associates|

It’s no secret that tourism is one of the most important industries driving Florida’s economy. And while it is home to several major travel destinations like Orlando, Miami, and the Keys, it may come as a surprise to some that the Bay Area is ranked third, behind Greater Orlando and New York, among the top Tourism Markets in the U.S.

From being named home of 2018’s #1 beach in the country, to the announcement of Tampa’s first five-star hotel on the horizon, and a notably undersupplied market – Tampa Bay is one of the most attractive areas for hospitality investment right now. And the pressure is on to increase lodging as Tampa Bay will be a five-time Super Bowl host in 2021.

Hospitality is an “import” business, as stated by Kent Schwarz, EVP of Hospitality for Colliers International, where the product is stationary and the consumer is brought in. Hotels and resorts play an integral part of Tampa’s tourism industry by generating taxable hotel revenue. In a recent report from VisitFlorida, “More than $644 million in taxable hotel revenue and a record $32.3 million in tourist development (bed) taxes were generated by visitors to Tampa and Hillsborough County as of Dec. 31, 2017.”

Kent Schwarz, EVP of Hospitality Colliers International; Barry Karpay, Tampa Bay District Council Chair and Vice President of Lennar Homes; David Downing, President and CEO of Visit St. Pete Clearwater; Lou Plasencia, CEO of The Plasencia Group; Julianne Corlew, Vice President of Mainsail Lodging and Development speaking at the ULI Tampa Bay StimULI program in September.

ULI Tampa Bay recently hosted expert professionals from the hospitality and tourism industry to discuss “Destination Tampa Bay! Trends in Hospitality.” The discussion covered Tampa Bay’s hospitality landscape and development opportunities, national emerging trends, demographic shifts, and how the local industry is positioning for the next wave of innovation.

Attracting Visitors
“We compete with the likes of Mickey and Miami,” said David Downing, President and CEO of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, “and to bring tourists to the St. Pete/Clearwater area we leverage and market our strengths: location and proximity.” St. Pete/Clearwater is located just 30 minutes from Tampa and only 90 minutes from Orlando. Its surrounding beaches are the most visited destination on the U.S. Gulf Coast, drawing more than 15 million annual visitors, which is easy to understand because Clearwater Beach was named TripAdvisor’s #1 Beach in the U.S. and #7 in the world in 2018.

St. Pete/Clearwater is what’s known as the DMO, or Destination Marketing Organization, for Pinellas County. With 24 cities and 14 chambers in Pinellas County, officials identified the need for an organization that could represent Pinellas County and help develop a long-term travel and tourism strategy to help the county compete with other popular travel destinations in Florida. The 35 miles of white-sand beaches, world-class arts, craft breweries, and vibrant nightlife scene contribute to the unparalleled character and personality of the St. Pete/Clearwater area, giving visitors a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Hospitality Opportunities in Tampa Bay
According to Lou Plasencia, CEO of The Plasencia Group (TPG), “Hospitality in Tampa Bay is on a roll and there’s room to grow.” In fact, the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater markets, collectively, have one of the highest Average Daily Rates (ADR) in the state. And Lou says ADR is likely to increase, which he encourages because “the bed tax revenues from lodging are largely generated by tax payers from outside the state and are deposited here in the Bay Area to be used to spur economic growth.”

With statistics showing growth in Tampa Bay’s hospitality and tourism markets, it’s interesting to note that more than half of hospitality development is from personal investment funds, i.e., High Net Worth (HNW)/ financial management sources/private equity funds. A report from TPG stated that “high net worth individuals and family offices are currently the most active buyers, as their entrepreneurial approaches and lower return hurdles allow them to be more aggressive than institutional players.

Emerging Hotel Trends and Upgraded Hotel Experiences

As evolving technology continues to transform hotel experiences, today’s hotels are on the hunt for ways to differentiate themselves and adapt to the ever-changing expectations of modern hotel users. Overnight guests and daily visitors alike are looking for authentic, local flavor and bespoke experiences unique to their destinations.

To create an experience that attracts visitors and keeps them coming back, Vice President of Mainsail Development and Lodging, Julianne Corlew, discussed some of the approaches that her company is taking to set their hotels and resorts apart from the competition.

Many of Mainsail’s hotels fall under Marriott International Inc.’s Autograph Collection, which allows each property to create a “soft-brand,” or a story, that emphasizes its own individual personality with all the benefits of Marriott’s reservation systems and loyalty programs. The soon to be opened “Fenway” Hotel in Dunedin, Florida, celebrates such a story as a 1927 historic structure redefined to create a patron experience centered around local community, music, and art. Julianne highlighted Mainsail’s food- and wine-inspired Epicurean Hotel in Tampa which was developed in collaboration with the famed Bern Steakhouse. The Epicurean Hotel’s partnership with the well-known restaurant is what sets this boutique hotel apart. Central to the hotel is the Epicurean Theatre, a 40-seat culinary classroom with amphitheater-style seating and a kitchen for food presentations, cooking classes, and iron chef competitions. “It’s probably the most requested space in the hotel,” said Julianne.

Destination-based lodging, accentuated by recreation and entertainment infrastructures, enhanced by environmental offerings, positioned through story-telling, and a flare of local authenticity helps to create unique patron experiences. The Tampa Bay Hospitality Industry is establishing its own trends.


Authored by:

Keith Greminger | Sr. Planning & Urban Design Manager, Kimley-Horn & Associates

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