by Leo Jakobson | July 11, 2018

On Florida's west coast, Naples and Marco Island are back to normal after Hurricane Irma last September. The resorts were actually not too badly hit, although several properties took the opportunity to move up scheduled renovations, delaying reopening.

"Today our destination is as beautiful as ever and there is little, if any, visible impact of last September's storm," says Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Only one hotel, the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa, has not yet reopened. And that property will reopen in September with new guest rooms, event facilities, pool deck and restaurants. The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, however, started a renovation project on June 25 that will finish in September, including a new façade and upgrades to its spa, boardwalk and ballroom.

Also on Marco Island, the newly branded JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort reopened at the beginning of last year following a $320 million renovation. It added new meeting space in March and is opening 93 adults-only rooms in September. The Marco Beach Ocean Resort has renovated all of its one- and two-bedroom suites and ballroom.

In Naples, the 189-room LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort has had a propertywide renovation including new rooms and a complete redesign of the lobby and signature restaurant, BALEEN Naples. The Naples Grande Beach Resort has completed a refresh of its 474 rooms, public spaces and pools. The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Course has wrapped up a $9 million redesign of its historic golf course by Jack Nicklaus and John Sanford. That's on top of $50 million in renovations over the past few years. On the horizon is the 109-room Old Naples Hotel in the Third Street South shopping and dining district, one block from the beach. It is set to open in late 2020 or early 2021.

The Brightline Opens
On Florida's east coast, the big news is the opening of the long-awaited Brightline railroad connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, which promises to cut travel time and dramatically ease the trip along the I-95 corridor.

The new Brightline railroad connecting
Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm
Beach has launched

Taking about a half-hour for each leg, the Brightline has a dedicated group-services department that can work with planners on everything from group ticketing and pricing through private cars, charter trains and even private cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. It already serves food and beverage, anyway.

"Brightline expands the horizons of the experiences available in South Florida by making the three cities a single region," says Patrick Goddard, president and COO of Brightline Management. "It's a carefree way to travel around South Florida in a way that I-95 makes inconceivable."  

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This article appears in the Summer 2018 issue of Incentive.