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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 1 year ago

Economic Forecast: Leisure travel increases while business travel remains slow

Tabish Siddiquie, general manager of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, says the property is counting on a pent-up desire for more in-person interaction.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Company: Like many hotel and resort properties hit hard by the pandemic, the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club had to make some staffing cuts in 2020. Its busy book of business in conferences, weddings and other events slowed significantly, as did hotel room bookings. Tabish Siddiquie, named general manager in late October, says he has seen a steady increase in leisure travelers at the resort, but business travel remains low. On advantage for the Vinoy is it has a plethora of outdoor spaces and amenities, including a golf course and tennis facility, that are popular with both travelers and local residents. “Anything related to leisure and the outdoor venues are doing fairly strong," Siddiquie says, "but I think where we will be waiting for some good news around the [COVID-19] vaccine is business travel and group events. That will probably take some time to recover.” 

Threats: A long-term decline in business travel is the main concern for Siddiquie, a 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry who, prior to joining the Vinoy, worked at Ritz-Carlton properties in Abu Dhabi, Kazakhstan, Grand Cayman, San Francisco and, closer to home, Sarasota. “We're counting on a desire for social interaction, that when we are past [the pandemic] that there is a desire for meetings to come back, a desire for a lot more in-person interaction,” Siddiquie says. “But we did find out how well our computers work and how much can get done with a keyboard, mouse and screen. I think that could be a potential threat.” 

Opportunities: “Leveraging our location will be most important,” Siddiquie says, citing the Vinoy’s close proximity to St. Petersburg’s bustling downtown waterfront, a destination becoming increasingly popular with tourists and in 2020 saw the long-awaited opening of the new St. Pete Pier. “Our hotel is uniquely located with great walkability to restaurants, museums and the whole downtown area. We’re quite lucky that for someone who wants to be outdoors, there are several opportunities within the resort and just outside of the resort.” 

Confident leisure travel will bounce back even more during Florida’s peak season for tourism, the Vinoy has already filled several open positions, but Siddiquie has kept a close eye on who is visiting the resort and how they are using it. “We’re looking forward to rebuilding some parts of the team,” Siddiquie says. “The way guests fill up our hotels will indicate areas that we need to staff up in. There could be some habits that change over time through this. There's some learning that we’re going to have to do in the next couple of years.” 

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