Western Florida Update

Last month, the Tampa Convention Center (TCC) partnered with the city’s TECO Line Streetcar System to allow all registered conference attendees use their conference badges as an unlimited-use pass. The streetcar runs right by the 600,000-square-foot, waterfront convention center. 

“This is a tremendous added value for meeting planners who book events at Tampa Convention Center, allowing attendees to save on transportation expenses during their event,” said Eric Blanc, TCC’s director of sales, marketing and convention service, in a statement. “Event attendees can cross the street to the nearest station and use the streetcar to easily visit a number of entertainment and dining options along the line.”

Several new hotels are coming to Tampa this year, and a number of existing properties are being renovated. Opening this fall in South Tampa’s trendy Hyde Park historic district, the 137-room, food-themed Epicurean is a partnership between Marriott’s Autograph Collection and Tampa’s famous Bern’s Steak House. Amenities will include a large, state-of-the-art culinary classroom and wine shop, as well as restaurants and a full-service spa. And early next year, a 130-room Le Meridien will open in the newly restored, 108-year-old federal courthouse, and a 130-room Aloft Tampa Downtown along the Tampa Riverwalk. 

On the renovation front, the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay has wrapped up a $16 million renovation of its 442 guest rooms and restaurant. It has more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The Mainsail Suite Hotel & Conference Center is going all-suite, converting its 360 rooms to 120 one- and two-bedrooms suites. It has 18,000 square feet of event space. The newly rebranded 521-room Hilton Tampa Downtown, with 30,000 square feet of event space, is working on a $13 million renovation set to finish next year. 

The St. Petersburg and Clearwater area beaches received a number of kudos this year, with a USA Today poll naming Clearwater Beach the “Best Beach Town in Florida” while Parents magazine named St. Pete Beach to its “Top 10 Best Beach Towns.” Meanwhile, TripAdvisor ranked four areas beaches to its list of the best in the U.S. — Ft. DeSoto Park (fourth), Caladesi Island State Park (12th), Pass-A-Grille (15th) and Clearwater beach (18th). The St. Pete Beach TradeWinds Sandpiper Suites was rebranded to add the Guy Harvey Outpost brand.