Make us your home page

Mainsail finds valuable niche market with extended-stay business travelers

Mainsail president Joe Collier, at the company’s new conference and event center off Veterans Expressway north of Tampa International Airport.


Mainsail president Joe Collier, at the company’s new conference and event center off Veterans Expressway north of Tampa International Airport.

Cruising down the Veterans Expressway north of Tampa International Airport, you might mistake Mainsail Hotel Suites and Conference Center for another sprawling apartment development.

The 360-suite complex targets the extended-stay market: business travelers in the area for two or three weeks at a time. But guests also include professionals attending conferences, wedding parties and golf foursomes from colder climes.

Mainsail recently bought a boutique hotel on Anna Maria Island and a South Tampa apartment complex that had failed as a condo conversion. Those units now rent mostly to military personnel assigned to nearby MacDill Air Force Base.

The latest project: a luxury resort built on a private island in the Caribbean. Mainsail president Joe Collier talked with the Times recently about how the Tampa company has evolved:

How did Mainsail get started?

I was working as the revenue guy for the airport Marriott, the West Shore Marriott and the Courtyard. PricewaterhouseCoopers was running their own (lodging) out of 200 or 300 apartments (for) people coming in for a 10-week training class. Information technology consulting training, very high-level, corporate-type stuff.

Marriott really didn't have a product they needed. I found some bank to loan the money, got Pricewaterhouse to sign a (10-year) lease and found some equity partners. It cost about $30 million for the hotel and $20 million for the four-story training center.

Why was the deal so attractive to them?

These units are built like luxury apartments with two bedrooms and two baths. The cost was extremely good, about $60 a night. So, their net cost was $30 a person. Two years into the deal, IBM bought Pricewaterhouse's consulting practice. They had their own training center and didn't want this one. We negotiated a buyout. They're still paying us until 2010.

Where did that leave your business?

We started rounding up mini-contracts. Waste Management brings in 30 guys for a week (to learn truck driving), then another batch of guys comes in. We did some airline contract business, like Southwest stewardesses and pilots. We've also got franchises for Marriott Exec­ustay. It's the corporate apartment business. Say Deloitte & Touche needs 20 corporate apartments for an audit. They put two professionals in a corporate apartment instead of two $200-a-night hotel rooms.

How about regular tourists?

We also sell rooms like any other hotel on Priceline and We get a ton of golfers from mid November through late May, maybe 30 or 40 foursomes a week.

How did you come to build Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands?

We'd chartered a boat on vacation and stopped for dinner on this island with a little restaurant and house. The only people living there were a widow and her two sons on this 250-acre island. I flew them to Tampa, and we've been partners since 2003.

The project started at $40 million to $50 million and now is $120 million. We put in a desalination plant, sewage treatment plant, built roads. Every brick had to come from somewhere else. Every nail and screw. It's extremely high-end: $800 to $900 per night.

Is it a condo hotel? For business meetings?

There's conference space. Otherwise, it's for fishing and diving enthusiasts. A good percentage of the buyers are from San Juan. They'll use them for three or four weeks and put them in the hotel (rental) program. Sixty-five units, from $1.2 million to $4.5 million. First arrivals are Feb. 11.

Why did you just open a $10 million conference center at the Tampa complex during probably the worst slump ever for business meetings?

Without it, we would not be able to play ball. It put us out of some (larger) conference business. Now, we're competing for the same business as the Hyatt on the (Courtney Campbell) Parkway. We've already got 20 weddings on the books.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

Mainsail finds valuable niche market with extended-stay business travelers 11/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 8, 2009 5:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.

  2. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  3. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  4. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  5. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.