MARCO ISLAND — Perhaps the most sincere votes are when people “vote with their feet,” or when corporations vote with their dollars. The Marriott and Hilton hotels, Marco Island’s two largest commercial establishments, are placing a multi-million bet on the economy, both on the island and nationally.
The two beach hotels together are spending over $20 million on face lifts for their respective properties this summer, getting the work done during the slow months before the tourist season resumes with the coming year.
“The real benefit comes because we will drive conventions here to Collier County,” said Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club, & Spa Director of Marketing Bob Pfeffer. “We keep growing the convention and leisure guest business, growing that year after year. That keeps local people employed year ’round.”
“We are creating complete new guestroom schemes to convey a contemporary residential atmosphere,” said Mac Chaudry, general manager of the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa. In addition to new furnishings, the hotel is adding technology to accommodate business travelers or anyone who feels the need to stay connected, with multiple Ethernet connections and electric plugs integrated into desk tables, as well as steam patches on mirrors to ensure guests can see themselves even with the shower going.
Part of the renovations include removing old bathtubs and replacing them with walk-in showers.
By the time the work is finished at the end of November, said Chaudry, the Hilton will spend closer to $9 million than eight million.
Wednesday, both hotels swarmed with workers in many trades. At the Hilton, the renovations were going floor by floor, and the next day, all the ninth floor rooms were scheduled to be turned back over to the hotel by the general contractor, Continental Contractors. Troops of painters, including Victor Salazar of Vic Renovations, followed Continental’s project manager Tom Federico as he checked items off his punch list. Chambermaids Santos Josefa, Catalina Trejo and Anna Zuniga gave the rooms a final going-over.
Many of the items being changed in what Pfeffer called a “soft goods renovation” were similar in both hotels, as each works to stay up on the latest trends in the hotel industry. Both were eliminating “double double” beds in favor of two queen-size mattresses. Both were integrating safes and mini-fridges into the stands beneath the HDTVs. Both make extensive use of durable, light-colored fabrics, natural wood and stone finishes.
Some of the renovations at the Marriott are one of a kind, though. The hotel’s Presidential Suite, an enormous penthouse on the top (11th) floor with a wraparound balcony, is getting a complete makeover, no less than you might expect for a room product that starts at $5,000 per night.
The parapet wall that protects guests from a serious fall is being replaced with a glass partition, installed by island contractor Glass of Marco.
“You’ll be able to sit in the living room” or stand at the suite’s pool table, “and look out at the Gulf,” said Pfeffer. Installer Steve Byers from Glass of Marco wore a climbing-style harness as he worked on the panels, although as he said, in this case the idea is to prevent him from doing any rappelling. The balcony is also getting a private spa and a wet bar, as well as siding of marine-grade ipo wood.
The Marco Marriott has an extra incentive to get this particular facet of their renovations completed. The hotel’s namesake, Marriott International chairman Bill Marriott, is due next month for a business meeting, and scheduled to stay in the suite.
In all, said Pfeffer, the Marco Marriott will spend $9 million on their guest rooms and ballroom, which is also getting a makeover, and $3.5 million at their Hammock Bay golf facility just off the island. Over 200 workers are employed, with 70 percent of them coming from Collier County.
While they draw guests from all over the country and the world, Pfeffer said the Marco Island market is important to the hotel as well.
“From Superbowl parties to the music festival, we do a lot with local residents,” he said. Their biggest local outreach now is the hotel’s Paradise Club. Islanders can join for $75, and immediately receive two rounds of golf, or 10 drink coupons, or two day spa passes. Many of the special promotions will be available only to Paradise Club members in the future, he said.
Chaudry said the Hilton last did a major makeover in 2005, and they are committed to providing “a special guest experience. We believe strongly in this island as a world-class destination,” he said.