Lauderdale Quickly Leaps into The High-End Market

(Originally published October 10, 2005)

The upscale shift in resort properties that began with the opening of the new Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa three years ago is gathering steam. A new five-star condo/hotel property being developed by Donald Trump constitutes only the most recent milestone in upscale hotel developments in the Fort Lauderdale area.

"Things have started to change in terms of the nature of the hotel product," said Mona Meretsky, president of Fort Lauderdale- based Comcor Event & Meeting Productions.

"We suddenly have a number of new choices for incentive groups." The Trump International Hotel & Tower Fort Lauderdale, a beachfront property,will be perhaps the most unusual-looking resort in South Florida when it opens in February 2007. Designed by Michael Graves, the architect who gave Orlando the whimsical-looking Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts, the new Trump property will look like a vintage 1925 cruise ship. It will have 298 one and two-bedroom suites, a spa, a pool and a restaurant.

The Westin Diplomat, meanwhile, got it all going with its 39-story, 998-room beachfront facility that also has been voted one of the 100 top golf resorts worldwide by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. It includes a huge oceanside lagoon pool, a big European-style spa and 209,000 square feet of conference space.

"It's one of great incentive-level properties in South Florida," said planner Jim Adams, president of Indianapolis-based Performance Strategies Inc. "The combination of great rooms with an ocean view and world-class dining options raises the bar for hotels in the area."

Other new upscale beachfront properties in Fort Lauderdale include The Atlantic, a high-rise property that is part of the Starwood Luxury Collection.

On the horizon is the beachfront 346- room W Fort Lauderdale Hotel; Florida's first St. Regis, a 166-room beachfront property; and Q Club Resort & Residence, a 25-story, 333-room property on the ocean. Projects in the next 18 months will add 1,400 upscale hotel rooms to the existing 33,000-room inventory.