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Condé Nast: Marco Island and local hotels nominated for readers' choice honors

Lance Shearer
A pool area at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in this file photo. Three Marco Island hotels and the island itself have been nominated in the 2020 Condé Nast Traveler awards competition.

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Marco Island was coming off one of its busiest, most successful seasons ever.

“Representatives of hotels, the chamber of commerce, and the local tourism authority all say that Collier County as a whole and Marco Island in particular have seen a spectacularly successful — and therefore, busy and congested — tourist season, with record numbers of visitors here and dollars spent,” said the story in the Marco Eagle at the time.

Now the tourism and hospitality industry is largely shuttered, the economy in a “medically induced coma” as Southwest Florida and the world attempt to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic.

But vacation travel will begin again, and visitors will return to Marco Island. In a reminder of that, Condé Nast Traveler announced its nominees for the magazine's annual Readers’ Choice awards, giving people the chance to consider all the destinations they have loved to visit or aspire to see. They also provide the opportunity to give the local tourism industry a boost when vacation travel resumes.

Marco Island was nominated in the “Best Island” category, and Naples was nominated as a candidate for “Best City.” Three vacation properties on the island, the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, and the Hilton Marco Beach Resort and Spa, were nominated in the “Best Hotels” category. There were also 13 Naples hotels nominated in the same category. To vote, participants can visit www.cntraveler.com/rca/vote and vote for one winner in each category.

Winners of the Readers’ Choice awards are selected based on votes received on the magazine’s website, with voting open through June 30. Winners will be announced online in October and appear in the November issue of the print magazine.

In last year’s awards, LaPlaya Beach Golf Resort in Naples placed at number 14 in the “Top 30 Resorts in Florida,” and the JW Marriott was ranked number 22. The Edgewater Beach Hotel in Naples placed number 12 in the “Top 15 Hotels in Florida.”

Dianna Dohm, executive director of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, said that as bad as the last few months have been, eventually the tide will turn.

“We want everybody to stay safe,” she said. “But there is going to be a time when the island is back up and running. If you want to rejuvenate yourself, Marco Island is the place to do it. We’re not going anywhere. We still have wonderful beaches, beautiful weather, topnotch hotels, and the mom and pop businesses you would expect on a quaint island off Florida’s coast.”

Awards from trusted sources do drive business, tourism marketers agree. 2019 “was the best season since 2014, when Marco was voted the best island in the U.S. by Trip Advisor,” said Dohm.

The Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice balloting “really is influential,” said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). “People really do follow recommendations, and Condé Nast Traveler is a very trusted source of travel information. When people see a resort winning one of these, that’s a strong stamp of approval.”

The CVB pulled all their national and international advertising in mid-March, said Wert, replacing the spots and ads committed to run with “soft messages saying ‘when you’re ready, we’ll be here.’ We have to build some confidence in people to travel again.” They are hoping that by the high season, people will be open to persuasion, and that is when the Condé Nast Traveler could influence their planning.

Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing at the JW Marriott, said they have been taking a lowkey approach to the awards in light of the pandemic. Whereas in the past, the hotel has been active on social media talking up their candidacy and requesting votes from visitors and friends, “we purposefully have not asked people to do that. People are working through a lot of important things.”

But, she said, “if people are do feel so led — when the results are published, that’s going to be the time when people are deciding it’s time to travel safely and responsibly, and a win for Marco Island.”

“Marco Island is a magical destination — those of us who live and work here know how special our beaches are and how welcoming the island is to visitors. The opportunity to again be recognized by Condé Nast Traveler means we are among the top destinations in the world,” Marco Beach Ocean Resort manager Chelsea Kolenda said in a statement.

“Marco Beach Ocean Resort represents the boutique all-suite experience on the island, with just 103 one- and two-bedroom suites directly on the Gulf of Mexico, and features one of Southwest Florida’s most highly awarded restaurants, Sale e Pepe. Condé Nast Traveler helps ensure explorers around the world will take notice of the resort and Marco Island itself, and add us to their list of must-see destinations.”

There are 15 different categories for Readers’ Choice awards on the magazine’s website, and in each of them, winners are announced in a host of regions, allowing many chances for recognition.

Last year, over 600,000 individual voters cast their ballots, said the magazine. You can join them at www.cntraveler.com/rca/vote.