Wyndham Casa Marina to undergo 'world class' refit


KEY WEST -- The Wyndham Casa Marina Resort & Beach House, formerly a Marriott operation, is about to launch an $8.5 million renovation along with an enhancement of its guest services.

Brian Gamache, the Dallas-based president of Wyndham's luxury and resort division, was interviewed by Travel Weekly during a recent weekend celebration marking the change of flag here.

The renovation will transform the 461-unit property from a "regional to a world class resort," Gamache said.

Oceanside units of the Wyndham Casa Marino in Key West, Florida overlook its extensive beach. This should happen by 2001, when the renovation is to be finished. All public spaces will be redone, including the entrance, which will be a throwback to its original 1920s look, including a long driveway.

Also to be revamped are the food and beverage outlets and meeting space, while the pool area will be upgraded to a recreation zone.

The former Reach operation, now the Casa Marina's Beach House wing, will undergo a major room upgrade.

Service changes were already evident during the weekend celebration, which Gamache said underscored Wyndham's determination to become "the dominant player in the upscale resort business," overtaking Hyatt and Westin.

Poolside concierges, added in Key West, for example, were providing more than towels. Offered were courtesy Evian water cool-offs, loaner CD and Walkman players (with a choice of music), courtesy magazines, samples of alcoholic drinks and fruit shish-ka-bobs. Coming next are computer hook-ups in the pool huts for guests who must check e-mail or a Web site.

Meanwhile, Wyndham has scrapped charges for mats, umbrellas, snorkels, kayaks and windsurfers.

In addition, personal vacation planners, a year-old Wyndham initiative, were added in Key West. The planners work with agents and the public (on direct bookings). They follow through on leisure reservations, determining guest preferences, assuring that on-site services are delivered and following up on the return home.

Any incentives offered to previous guests to stay at a Wyndham resort are redeemable through agents, Gamache said.

Some 100 hours of Wyndham instruction were provided to the Key West employees by Ian Baxter, Wyndham's regional vice president, and Michael Proimos, general manager.

Following the renovation, the Casa Marina will be able to lure "new customers to Key West," Gamache said. He defined such customers as those meeting groups who now go to Wyndham's El Conquistador in Puerto Rico or Wyndham's The Boulders in Scottsdale, Ariz., both established convention hotels.

In addition, upscale leisure travelers should look with favor upon the revamped property, Gamache said, citing the emphasis on upgraded accommodations and service. "Wyndham Casa Marina has tremendous potential. A whole generation hasn't been there," he said.

In other news:

  • There are plans, subject to government approval, to construct a walkway from the Casa Marina to the Beach House wing.
  • An on-demand water shuttle also is planned, possibly using pontoon boats. Both properties have the same beach exposure and are currently linked by shuttle vans. These vans also operate courtesy airport transfers.
  • Key West rates (depending on guest unit) through Dec. 25 are $159 to $259 per night; Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, $395 to $495, and Jan. 2 to April 29, $245 to $355.
  • Wyndham has no immediate plans to adopt Marriott's 10% to 8% agent pay plan, Gamache said.
  • "Agents are the cheapest sales force you can employ. They're only paid on productivity," he said. Agents earn overrides for volume business, becoming members of the Wynners Circle.

  • The company just launched TradeWynds, a seasonal update magazine for agents, and introduced the Travel Agent Millennium Contest.
  • Jeanine Gilchrist, based in Oakland, N.J., is vice president of travel industry sales, working with a sales force of 12.

    Wyndham Casa Marina
    Phone: (800) WYNDHAM

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