Isaac causes a few hotel cancellations in Collier, Lee; no RNC business to help fill void

Tropical Storm Isaac affects RNC

GOP scraps first day of convention.

Daily News columnist Brent Batten joins a team of Scripps Howard News Service reporters in Tampa to cover the Republican National Convention. Beginning Sunday, look for his reports as part of the Daily News’ expanded coverage of the convention, which is Monday through Thursday.

— Hoteliers in Southwest Florida could use a boost.

But they won't get it from the Republican National Convention in Tampa — and they'll lose business to Isaac.

As Isaac became a threat last week to hit Southwest Florida as a Category One hurricane, some hotels reported cancellations from it.

The end of August is one of the slowest times for hoteliers in Southwest Florida, with so many kids getting back to school and summer nearing its end. So the potential for lost business from the storm isn't as great.

Local hoteliers weren't counting on any extra business from the Republican convention, which runs from Monday to Thursday in Tampa. It's just too far away to create any spinoff in Lee or Collier counties.

"We wish we were getting some. It wouldn't be bad this time of year," said Bruce Seigel, director of marketing for the Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples.

The Ritz-Carlton resorts will be a little slower this weekend because of Isaac after seeing some room cancellations. On the flip side, the inland golf resort picked up a few reservations from residents living on the beach and wanting to get off it because of the storm threat.

Overall, Seigel said, the impact from the storm is "negligible."

"We have a lot of European guests here for multiple weeks. They are just going to ride out the storm with us," he said.

He described the Republican convention as a gift to the Tampa market.

"It's certainly a gift to the hospitality industry in general for this time of year," he said.He estimates convention delegates will fill about 6,000 hotel rooms. But there's plenty of rooms in Tampa and surrounding areas, including Orlando and St. Petersburg, to meet their needs.

A few events are taking place in Sarasota, so the Ritz-Carlton there will see a bit of business from the convention, Seigel said.

He said delegates will have business on their minds, not a vacation. So they're unlikely to extend their stay for a visit to Naples.

"It's a business event like any other business event," Seigel said.

Other hoteliers agree.

"We're not expecting any business (from the convention)," said Ellis Etter, regional director of sales and marketing for the Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina on Fort Myers Beach. "There are so many hotels and resorts up there."

It will be a slower than expected weekend at his resort due to Isaac, which triggered about a half-dozen room cancellations.

"We are not going to charge a cancellation fee or anything. It's just the right thing to do," he said.

The resort picked up a few bookings from TV stations for planned storm coverage along the coast, Etter said.

Jack Wert

Jack Wert

"Right now, we are just kind of looking at rain and maybe some tidal surges," he said.

After checking with about 30 other hotels in Collier County on Friday, Jack Wert, Collier County's tourism director, said none of them reported cancellations.

"As long as the storm keeps moving west I think we're OK," Wert said. "But we are monitoring it."

While delegates from the political convention in Tampa aren't expected to come this far south during their trip, Collier County is making an effort to lure them in the future.

The Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau placed an informational ad in a Tampa-area magazine that all Republican delegates will receive this week. Wert said he's learned from other large meetings and events, such as the Super Bowl, not to expect overflow business here when they're being held two or more hours away in cities such as Tampa and Miami.

In the case of political conventions especially, Wert said, "the delegates just seem to come in for the event and leave."

Lee Rose, a spokesman for the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said he doesn't anticipate any effect from the Republican convention here.

"The focus is on Tampa and the region up there," he said. "It's definitely a regional effort up there, not just the city of Tampa."

Looking ahead, hoteliers in Southwest Florida are expecting a strong Labor Day weekend in the aftermath of Isaac.

In fact, Labor Day is holding strong, said Seigel, with the Ritz-Carlton resorts. "We are nearly sold out for Labor Day, at the beach hotel specifically."

__ Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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