Writer: Jerrica DuBois
2 min read June 2022 — While the overall recovery of the hospitality sector was slow to start, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions across Tampa Bay are now showing signs of a thriving industry. Thomas Fraher, general manager of The Don CeSar and The Beach House Suites by Don CeSar, and Jackie Mangar, general manager of Hotel Zamora, shared with Invest: their thoughts on the current landscape, challenges and opportunities facing their businesses and industry.
What do you think about the future of business travel?
Thomas Fraher: Business travel is on the upside specific to this market. We’ve seen a shift of some companies from the West Coast leaving certain states and coming to Florida. We’ve seen significant companies come into this market and relocate their headquarters. The shift of some companies from other areas is only going to help business travel, and the logic there is that people are going to come down for that meeting, and Florida is such a great destination. I think there’s going to be a strong pool of business travelers coming back to the area, and there’s no better place to extend for leisure and vacation.
What do you feel are the benefits of being a boutique hotel in today’s hospitality market?
Jackie Mangar: Being new and a boutique, we have the ability and freedom to make rules that are not under corporate mandates. We are a family-run business, so we have more freedom to create relationships and respond quickly to demands. There is also a benefit to only having 72 rooms because it creates an intimate environment with amenities and experiences a guest seeks, all in one space.
How have you seen your guest demographics shift?
Fraher: We’re starting to see a slight change in the age demographic trending younger due to the rise in work from home employees and remote work over the last couple of years. We still enjoy hosting some of more traditional guests such as retired individuals that have a healthy disposable income. We feel that in general, guests are looking for one-of-a-kind experiences—which is certainly what we’re looking to deliver—by coming to our beach, reuniting with the family, decompressing and getting energy levels back up. We think we’re well suited to provide just that.
Mangar: We are surprised to see corporate events making a comeback and are seeing a big influx of leads there. Weddings have been booming as well and 2022 is already set to be our biggest year for those. We have always been a couple’s destination because of the intimacy and amenities at our hotel, and that is playing out with events like celebrations or birthdays, baby and bridal showers. Guest spending habits are changing, too, so we’ve cut out resort fees and have made amenities pay-as-you-go.
What is your outlook for the next two to three years?
Fraher: We have just finished a massive transformation of the hotel over the past three years, a full top to bottom renovation. We are all set and ready to rock and roll in the future. We’ve got great footing right now, so moving forward is going to be about finding the balance of guest programming as it relates to the makeup of our business.
Mangar: For the property, we will be rolling out more beautification and update projects. As we get busier again, it is important that we stay on top of our preventative maintenance and health protocols. One of our main goals is to have a strong calendar of programs, especially around the holidays. I am cautiously optimistic but 2021 was a different type of year. International travel and cruises were largely shut down, so there was more demand for domestic vacations and that may have inflated numbers. With that competition coming back online going into 2022, we will be sure to keep a positive and aggressive approach to bring in more guests.
In terms of Tampa Bay, people are coming here in great numbers, both vacationing and settling down to live here. As a result, there is more construction Downtown, more restaurants and all that means more opportunities for the hotel sector.
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