Naples growth spurs hotel expansions

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NAPLES, Fla. -- This area of southwest Florida is enjoying a hotel building boom.

"There has been an explosion of hotel rooms in the Greater Naples area. It's going bananas," said Mike Watkins, president of the family-owned Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.

The Naples Beach HotelThe 316-room resort, which is more than 50 years old, is undergoing its own rebuilding program, adding about 13,000 square feet (for a total of 25,000 square feet) of meeting space.

"I guess there's one feasibility study that says we need more rooms, and everyone is reading it," Watkins said.

About 75% of the Naples Beach Hotel's winter business is social.

"There's a lot of affluence here, and I think that tends to attract people who have the bucks," Watkins said, citing it as one reason behind the area's popularity.

A spokeswoman for Visit Naples Inc., the public-private group promoting tourism in the area, said no statistics are available but noted visitor numbers are definitely growing.

A spokesman at the Naples Area Chamber of Commerce observed that about 140,000 visitors stopped at the facility last year, about 3,000 more than the previous year.

"We attribute the good business in part to our group's brainstorming and doing various promotions," said a spokeswoman for Visit Naples.

In fact, business has been so good this winter that promotions have been postponed until later in the year.

Naples is portrayed in advertising and promotions as being a safe place to visit with a "small-town atmosphere and beautiful beaches," the spokeswoman said.

"People are coming here for the beaches, the nice weather, the [nearby] Everglades and [the area's access to] the Keys," said a spokesman for the chamber of commerce.

Key West is more than five hours away by car, but there is regularly scheduled boat service from Factory Bay Marina on Marco Island.

In November, a 110-foot whale-watching boat began offering four-hour trips to Key West; on Feb. 7, the service was scheduled to become daily.

The roundtrip fare ($89) is commissionable at 10%.

The seasonal service ends May 9. The vessel carries 130 passengers on the route.

The Key West Shuttle. Phone: (888) 259-3800

"We've always been popular for our winters, but we've picked up during what we call the fringe and summer season," the Naples chamber spokesman said.

The growing popularity of golf has added to the area's appeal. Naples has 53 courses and claims to have more golf holes per capita than any other Florida destination.

New hotels and expansions include the following:

  • Marriott's 120-room Residence Inn Naples opened on Jan. 27 and is offering extended-stay room rates starting at $149 per night for stays of 30 days or more.
  • The hotel has 800 square feet of meeting space.

    Residence Inn Naples by Marriott. Phone: (800) 331-3131

  • The 105-room Grand Inn recently opened and has winter room rates of $150 to $235 per night.
  • Amenities include a full service restaurant and lounge, room service, candy in every room, in-room modem hook-ups and laundry service.

    Grand Inn. Phone: (877) 430-3500

  • The Best Western Naples Plaza Hotel is open, but its addition is only about two-thirds complete; owners intend to have 250 rooms finished by summer.
  • Winter room nightly rates range from $76 to $138 and include a continental breakfast.

    The hotel is located five minutes from the beach and offers a heated pool and a spa.

    Best Western Naples Plaza. Phone: (888) 679-6655

    The Park Shore All-Suite Resort, with 156 units, completed a $1 million renovation, including the addition of new furniture in guest units and the addition of a conference room seating 25.

    Rates start at $215 per

    night for one-bedroom units through April 10.

    Park Shore Resort. Phone: (800) 548-2077

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