Bill Marriott Jr. Descends upon South Florida

It is certainly not news that many of our friends from the north choose to holiday on our sunny shores when winter hits. Who could resist dancing around in next to nothing at some of the hautest pools in the country when the rest of our readers are bundled up in layers of marshmallow-type outerwear? With that in mind, it didn’t come as a shock to learn that Marriott Hotels CEO Bill Marriott Jr. is vacationing again in Fort Lauderdale, but we still like to hear his inside scoop on all that makes the South Florida market great.

The 77-year old hotel magnate considers the Marriott Harbor Beach one of his two top vacation priorities each year, with the JW Marriott in Camel Back Arizona also holding a top spot. Though we would choke on our caviar before recommending typical airport hotels, we should mention that on his trip Marriott did witness the reopening of the 361-room Miami Airport Marriott after a $74 million renovation project that also includes an expanded Courtyard by Marriott and a new 163-room Residence Inn. In an interview with the Miami Herald’s Business Monday, Marriott professed that declining reservation rates were tapering off. “We’re seeing small amounts of group business pick up. We had one hotel for instance that was 30 percent behind in group pace six months ago, now they’re only 10 percent behind. It’s a significant hotel, a 1,000-room hotel. So we’re starting to see some business meetings and convention business come back.” However he did declare that though 2009 turned out to be better than expected, it still presented the worst decline in lodging that he has ever witnessed.

As the parent company of the beloved Ritz-Carlton brand, Marriott verbalized the hit they have taken in the luxury segment due to investment and banking companies watching their spending habits, but he expressed confidence that it is not an effect that will last forever. And in a testament to the greatness of our tropical treasure that is South Florida, Marriott said, “Well, this is a very attractive market. You’ve got great air service. You’ve got great weather. You’ve got a lot to do. When you think about the East Coast, and the population of wealth between Washington and Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Connecticut — you’ve got a lot of wealthy people and it’s awful easy to get to Florida. I’ve always been bullish on South Florida. I’ve always felt South Florida was going to be good long-term for whatever is built here.”

Via Miami Herald