By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read January 2020 — The hospitality industry in Tampa Bay welcomed several new hotel offerings into the marketplace in 2019, and 2020 is going to see the introduction of even more inventory. Invest: spoke to Shaun Kwiatkowski, the general manager of one of the newest offerings to the Tampa Bay region, The Godfrey Hotel and Cabanas Tampa. Besides a bountiful 2019, Kwiatkowski also spoke about the importance and benefits of operating as an independent brand in a market that is saturated with corporate offerings, as well as his view on the impact of the sharing economy in the Bay.
How would you describe The Godfrey’s performance in 2019?
In 2019, we enjoyed the continued market penetration of our brand. We are still pretty new and usually the ramp-up period for a hotel brand in this market can take up to five years to really penetrate and become established, especially a new, independent hotel like The Godfrey. We do not have the Marriott or the Hilton behind us, so we have to rely on a lot of specific strategies to execute. We feel that we have been able to penetrate the market effectively in a short period of time. We have had a lot of growth, which we measure by ADR growth. We had almost double-digit ADR growth last year, which equates to RevPar growth in the hotel’s revenue results. We’re very thankful and proud that we have been able to grow that ADR a little bit faster than the market as a whole. When you look at the Tampa Bay market this past year, occupancy rates had stayed pretty much flat, but I believe that has a lot to do with the additional room supply coming into the market.
How has operating as an independent brand been beneficial and a challenge to the hotel?
Being an independent brand can create benefits, but there are also challenges to that. As the business and the industry have evolved, demand has changed and today, many people want something different from the corporate type of hotel. Not to take anything away from those brands, but people do want to have the unique and fun experience that an independent brand can provide, similar to our food and beverage experience in WTR Pool & Grill. That is exactly who we are. If we look at the market as a whole, we are starting to see some of those big-name brands evolve into a more independent style. We are seeing those independent, millennial-focused brands growing in popularity, especially in this area.
A big challenge for us across the industry is employee retention and finding the right talent. We drive employee retention through the culture that we create within the hotel. If we find a good employee, we reward them and we guide them through their career. When we are looking at recruiting people to fill our open positions, it is more about the person than their skills. I can teach you most of the skills to be a front desk agent or to be a server, but I can’t teach you to smile. I can’t teach you to be positive and warm. This means we always have to be in our recruiting mindset and look for those individuals who have the hospitality spirit.
How has the sharing economy impacted your business, if at all?
In regards to the impact from the sharing economy and things like Airbnb, there’s enough room for everyone to play, from our perspective. The Godfrey has not seen a major impact from the sharing economy. If the average person does a normal search of Airbnbs in this region, there is not as large an inventory as you might find in Boston or Chicago. That being said, when we look at what Airbnb is doing and the future of their booking channel, that is something that’s on our radar. If there is an opportunity there that works for us, we are going to investigate it and see if there is enough return on investment to try and implement something similar.
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