Sunday, April 22, 2018
Business

North Pinellas hotels expect big business boost from Tampa's Republican National Convention

CLEARWATER

Forgive your local hoteliers for the dollar signs in their eyes: They're preparing for the business equivalent of what one called "seven Super Bowls in one." With hotel assignments announced last week for delegates who will attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa Aug. 27-30, North Pinellas resort leaders are bracing for a windfall during what is normally one of the sleepiest tourism weeks of the year.

"In late August? You couldn't dream this one," said Jack Guy, a spokesman for Sheraton Sand Key, who predicted that hosting the delegates from Oregon and Illinois would triple his resort's typical business. "This is just a golden egg."

Ten North Pinellas hotels will host 16 delegations — including those from New York, Florida, Puerto Rico and American Samoa — for the Republican convention, which will usher Tampa Bay onto the national stage. Most local hotels expect full bookings and plentiful profits from providing rooms, meals, meeting space and entertainment.

And the announcements last week are just the start. Only a third of the convention's 105 designated hotels and just under half of their 16,000 rooms are set aside for convention delegates. Other facilities not part of last week's announcement — including behemoths like Clearwater Beach's swank Sandpearl Resort and Hyatt Regency — will likely house Republican staffers, the media and others among the convention's 50,000 visitors.

The convention, North Pinellas hotel leaders said Friday, couldn't come at a better time: four weekdays in the slow "Twilight Zone" between summertime family vacations and the post-Labor Day resurgence of corporate retreats.

Hotels that would have been half-empty then have allocated about 90 percent of their rooms to the convention. The six-story Wyndham Garden Clearwater Beach, where all 110 rooms are reserved for Kentucky convention delegates, is considering hiring new employees to help cope with the crowds.

Republican Party representatives will coordinate many of their delegates' needs, like the hundreds of buses that will be required to ferry them from Pinellas to the convention site, the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa. Party officials from across the country will begin flying here this month to check on rooms and organize events.

But hotel leaders will still face a host of demands they wouldn't see in a typical week. For example, delegates will expect to be served breakfast all at the same time, will return from Tampa in the late hours, and will seek some meal variety over the course of their weeklong stay.

"When you feed 350 people for breakfast, you have to be very efficient," said Marriott Suites general manager Philippe Eversdijk. And he added, "People don't eat steak five nights a week."

Some new services may be available, and even some new facilities.

For example, at the Sheraton Sand Key, where delegates could fill more than 300 rooms, a third-party vendor will be allowed to set up shop to sell RNC merchandise.

And Shephard's Beach Resort, which is hosting South Dakota delegates, is rushing to double the size of its waterfront stage.

Although hoteliers may be spending some money to prepare for the influx, they are expecting something in return: advertising. Many hope that delegates will return home with high praise for North Pinellas' bays and beaches, its palm trees and water views.

"It's going to be a very, very nice piece of business. No doubt about it," Wyndham Garden general manager Nigel Duffett said. "This is an opportunity to show it all off."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

     
     
Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18