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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 6 months ago

Polish the gems: Resorts level up to meet tourists' changing demands, trends

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A collection of boutique hotels strives to set itself apart with unique experiences, fine dining and wellness options.

The Opal Collection, a marketing company that works with boutique Florida hotels and resorts, including seven notable properties on the Gulf Coast, dispatched its head of public relations to Tampa recently to tout upgrades to its portfolio and discuss state tourism trends.

Meeting with journalists at Ulele, The Columbia Restaurant Group’s popular eatery on the Riverwalk, north of downtown Tampa, Kerry Morrissey says wellness and culinary excellence are the biggest drivers of business at the Opal Collection’s 14 Florida properties, which range from Sunset Key Cottages in Key West to the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach.

He also cited Naples, where Opal Collection works with the Edgewater Beach Hotel, as becoming “the Disney of wellness.” Edgewater Beach Hotel, Morrissey says, recently launched a comprehensive wellness program, called Be Well, that offers retreats and packages focused on self-care and restorative health. It’s an especially smart move considering that, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island metro area enjoys the highest wellbeing in the country.

“I don’t think wellness will ever go away” as a selling point, Morrissey adds.

When it comes to food, the Opal Collection takes a similar approach, emphasizing healthy options and fine-dining experiences as a differentiator — and a way to add more revenue to the bottom line.

“It’s hard to eat well in hotels,” Morrissey says. Hotel restaurants “are usually set up to feed the masses. When most people are on vacation, they don’t care what they eat.”

The Opal Collection also includes a handful of properties in New York and New England, and Morrissey says that allows the firm to offer a special “sunrise to sundown package” that lets guests start the day at a resort in Bar Harbor, Maine — the first U.S. city to greet the morning light — and finish it in Key West, where sunset celebrations are a famous tradition.

Morrissey also summed up the health of tourism in the Sunshine State. “There’s no more seasonality in Florida,” he says. “Our business is year round.”

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