Ready to reopen? Marco Hilton schedules September return
The Hilton is almost ready for its closeup.
The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa, which has been closed since June 2017 in the wake of an electrical fire and subsequent water damage, remains closed to overnight stays, but that will soon change, said general manager Steven Falciani.
The date for the hotel to reopen its guestrooms has been pushed back a number of times, with work initially scheduled for completion by the 2017-18 winter season, then this past March, and finally an unspecified date “in the summer.”
“The opening date is by the end of September, for sure,” said Falciani on Wednesday, standing in the redone and completed lobby looking out over the pool and beach beyond. With autumn technically commencing on Sept. 22, that deadline is being met within a week or so, if the property opens as advertised.
The project and scope of work kept growing, said Falciani. The entire hotel, including its 310 guest rooms and suites, meeting rooms, pool area and restaurants, are receiving more upgrades. The guest rooms were originally scheduled to be redone in 2018, so ownership made the decision, with the hotel already closed to guests, to go ahead and do all of the renovations at once.
The result, said Falciani, will essentially be a brand-new resort.
“This property has to be, not just renovated, but completely redefined,” he said. “The owners are putting a lot into it – $40 million.” During the work, all interior partitions on guest room floors were removed, water pipes and electric lines removed and replaced, and an entire new look put into place.
The hotel is open for meetings and events such as weddings, with public spaces completed first, he emphasized, and the beach bar and outside dining area, The Deck at 560, is open for business. The Hilton has offered a day pass allowing people to take advantage of the beach access, pool bar and restaurant, that has been popular with vacationers from resort areas to the north experiencing red tide, which has been absent from the Gulf along Marco Island, said Falciani.
“That’s almost done,” he said of the day pass program. “We won’t be able to offer that once we’re open.”
Reopening a hotel that has been closed for over a year is a challenge, trying to match staffing levels and procurement to a guest base that will not return all at once.
“It’s tricky – this is really a new opening,” said Falciani. The hotel held a “hiring event” on Aug. 16, and has another scheduled for Sept. 6. They have positions available in management, front office, spa, recreation, food and beverage, housekeeping and engineering. By January, said Falciani, they need to hire approximately 250 employees.
The key to the current schedule is the Hilton will be up and running by then, when the full-scale tourist season kicks in. They plan to hold a grand opening party once they have time to get operations going, some time after the “soft opening” around the end of this month.
Working with the city building department, the hotel plans to open “from the ground up,” with three floors of guest rooms open to begin with and add more as more guests return. The rooms are still not available to photograph, as the final area to be completed, said Falciani, but he did display renderings of what they will look like when finished.
Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing at the JW Marriott hotel up the street, said they are eager for the Hilton to reopen. Both she and Falciani stressed they are friendly competitors, and work together in overflow situations as needed.
“It’s not good for anyone when guests can’t come to this destination,” said Falciani. “They end up going somewhere else, probably in Florida,” and might fall in love with that area. He said the Hilton has been contacting past guests to let them know they will be available, and 40 percent of the hotel’s business comes from repeat visitors. “They keep coming back year after year,” he said.