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Vanessa Williams will guide the historic Vinoy into the future

Veronica Brezina

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The Vinoy. Photo provided.

From South Korea to Beverley Hills, Vanessa Williams has traveled the globe, restoring and renovating luxury hotels. 

Vanessa Williams, general manager of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club. Photo provided.

After serving more than 30 years in the industry, Williams, a South African native, is tackling her new role as the general manager of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club.

“I was involved in the opening of the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills resort and was there for six years when someone from Marriott reached out to me, as they were searching for a manager of The Vinoy,” Williams said, stating she knew of The Vinoy but wasn’t totally familiar with it.

She packed her bags and ventured to St. Petersburg to see the historic pink palace, and its ongoing renovations, firsthand. 

“There’s a spirit in the resort, and it’s very palatable – something I wanted to be part of. I remember going to sleep and waking up to the view of the marina and bay. I called my husband to tell him I fell in love with The Vinoy during the day and then fell in love with the city this morning,” she said.     

RELATED: Vintage St. Pete: The Vinoy Park Hotel

Williams has held past leadership roles at multiple resorts, including at Raffles L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, Sukhothai Bangkok, Waldorf Astoria Beijing and Conrad Seoul.

Although new to the scene, Williams and her husband have become quickly acquainted with the St. Petersburg community. 

“People are genuinely very passionate about this city and its culture – you don’t see a Starbucks on every corner – there are local businesses,” she said, explaining the culture in the city reminds her of her time in Seoul, South Korea, where she witnessed historical developments and tradition blend with the influx of a younger generation. 

“The reality is they never lost their culture. In St. Pete, people are moving here, and it can economically help St. Pete grow into what it needs to be,” Williams said. “The relevance of The Vinoy is very important to the local community. I feel indebted to ensure this resort continues to become that anchor in a way that ties everything back to the history of St. Pete in a renewed way.” 

The 100-year-old resort, operated by Marriott International, is nearly complete with its first phase of a massive renovation. The resort’s transformation kicked off in fall 2021, with the initial renovation of the Palm Court Ballroom and the Vinoy Grand Ballroom. 

The resort is working with San Francisco-based Hart Howerton Architects and the New York-based Rockwell Group to redesign the hotel while continuing to embrace the Vinoy’s traditional Mediterranean revival design and old-Florida grandeur.

“When I renovated a Hong Kong hotel, it was the destination where everyone dined and got married there, it was really the heartbeat of the city. The Vinoy has been that for St. Pete and once you approach it from the perspective of ‘sensitive restoration,’ you want to make sure the person walking through the front door is walking into someplace beautiful and fresh, but familiar,” she said. 

The Vinoy Renaissance is also undergoing a name rebranding as The Vinoy Resort and Golf Club, an Autograph Collection Hotel. 

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    BobT

    January 5, 2023at12:04 pm

    Give her a chance and don’t be so offended. Jeez! Remember who the customer is.

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    January 3, 2023at6:46 pm

    I agree with Ms. Hoddinott, St. Pete has already arrived. Mrs. Williams can add to its success. I find the place overpriced and the food is not the greatest. I have no idea when the last wedding was held there. I was there a few years back and was not impressed. I hope it can become better and welcoming. We would love to host an even there.

  3. Avatar

    Sarah Hoddinott

    January 2, 2023at11:22 pm

    I love the Vinoy and wish Ms Williams well, but even as a relatively new resident I find her attitude to to be slightly offensive, even arrogant. “people are moving here, and it can economically help St. Pete grow into what it needs to be,” St Pete doesn’t NEED to grow into anything. St Pete is doing just fine economically. If she feels St Pete NEEDS to change maybe she is in the wrong place.

  4. Avatar

    Robin Riker

    January 2, 2023at6:49 pm

    I find this totally exciting and am looking forward to this new leadership and continued renovations to keep this a top notch destination hotel!!! Dr and Mrs H Riker

  5. Avatar

    Robin Sola

    January 2, 2023at1:37 pm

    I live across the street. I have been watching all the construction. Anxious to see it in its final glory!

  6. Avatar

    Stpete24

    January 1, 2023at3:05 pm

    Boy does she have huge job ahead of her. Angry members nothings open and ridiculous prices .. hopefully she turns this disaster around sooner than later.

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