Tampa Bay area hotels rooms can still be found for RNC week

Still haven't booked your room for next week's Republican National Convention?

Surprisingly, you still have time.

Most of downtown Tampa appears booked solid, and hotels across the bay are loaded up with state delegations, the media and guests.

But several hotels — from a Howard Johnson near Tampa International Airport to the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in downtown St. Petersburg — still have rooms for visitors offering the right price.

At the TradeWinds Island Resort in St. Pete Beach, about 250 of its 800 rooms remain open for booking, leaving its occupancy about the same as a typical August week.

That's because the California delegation, which committed to more than 700 rooms, actually booked about 500, said resort president Keith Overton. Everything from $159 starter rooms to $300 two-bedroom suites remains available.

The hotel is looking for last-minute bookings and hoping for a good turnout. But with many visitors already reserved, Overton expects revenue will flatten instead of surge.

"Clearly we're happy to have them. It's business we wouldn't have had," he said. But "it's not all that much better than we had in the past, interestingly enough."

The Hyatt Regency Tampa, a few downtown blocks from the core of the convention, expects its 521 rooms will remain booked all week, due mostly to a contingent of media and delegations from Wisconsin and Mississippi.

But sales and marketing director Josh Haas said the hotel had higher expectations for bookings leading up to the convention. Guests, he expected, would want to visit Florida early to beat crowds and see the sights.

"We anticipated more room nights to be booked prior to the convention," he said.

At the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, nearly all 360 rooms have been booked as part of the convention's block.

The remaining 10 rooms will be up for grabs, but at an aggressive price of about $329 a night. That's a big premium over a typical August night's rate of about $189.

Resorts have begun preparing for the convention, which runs Monday to Aug. 30, with bars and restaurants staying open later and readying for bigger crowds.

At Clearwater Beach's Sheraton Sand Key resort, where delegates from Illinois and Oregon will lay their heads, the hotel is renaming its Island Grill the Oregon Connection and hanging the state's flags.

The Vinoy's house restaurant, Marchand's Bar & Grill, will serve meatloaf, a dish which presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, prepares for him every year on his birthday.

And Marchand's and the Vinoy's lobby bar will serve special Republican-tied cocktails, including the Maverick, the Running Mate and the Red State Roundup.

As for grabbing up new business in the waning days before the convention, hoteliers aren't holding their breath.

"Everyone who's coming has made their choice," said Jack Guy, Sheraton Sand Key's vice president of sales and marketing. "But there may be a straggler or two still making plans."

Tampa Bay area hotels rooms can still be found for RNC week 08/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 8:24pm]

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