New in Town
Longboat Key, the barrier island off Sarasota and Manatee counties sometimes known for its resistance to change, has a new hotel for the first time in years.
The 84-room property, called Zota Beach Resort, is a former Hilton. The hotel owner, Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties, spent $24 million renovating the hotel in a modern decor style that reflects the blues, grays and other calming colors that match the Gulf of Mexico. A new tower, which houses 103 rooms, is set to open this fall.
The resort is named after the historical and indigenous name of the region, Zara Zota, according to a statement. Zota is the fifth one in the Sarasota-Bradenton region area for Ocean Properties, and its first in Manatee County. The others are the Resort at Longboat Key Club; Lido Beach Holiday Inn; Lido Beach Resort; and the Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach.
Zota is also part of Ocean Properties' Opal Collection, which includes two other new resorts on the Gulf Coast: Opal Sands Resort in Clearwater Beach and Treasure Island Beach Resort in Treasure Island.
Officials with Ocean Properties, through a spokeswoman with an outside marketing firm, declined to comment on the company's strategy or model in Florida.
But tourism officials in the region are exited there's a new place in town.
Manatee County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione says tourism could increase on the north end of Longboat Key by 30% with Zota taking in guests. Longboat Key had 70,000 visitors stay in short-term rentals on the north end last year — a figure that has dropped since the Hilton closed. “Adding a four-star plus hotel, like Zota, is much needed and will feed other businesses,” Falcione says.
And more rooms on the north end means there could be more rooms available on the south end. “It raises brand awareness for Longboat Key for being a fabulous destination,” says Visit Sarasota Vice President Erin Duggan.
Even some Longboat Key residents — not all — are glad Zota has arrived. (Traffic, safety and parking are three of the biggest issues and worries.) The Zota Beach Resort property includes The Cascades Pool Barand Viento Kitchen & Bar, both open to the public.
Lenny Landau of the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force sees Zota as a benefit for the community. He doesn't believe the resort will have a negative impact on traffic, and says the added tourism will provide Key retailers and restaurants with vital business during the offseason. He also looks forward to having a new restaurant option.
“We need it,” Landau says. “I'm glad to see it open.”
Room rates through Dec. 24 at the new Zota Beach Resort on Longboat Key range from $284 for a king room with a partial water view to $411 for a one-bedroom suite, when booked before June 30. Rates rise to between $379 and $549 when booked after June 30. The resort opened June 23.