A 100-year-old hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is getting a refreshed look that’s reminiscent of the hotel’s beginnings.
New Hotel Collection Cordova Inn, at 253 2nd Ave. N., has an updated lobby with a Roaring ’20s décor. The 32 rooms are getting a makeover and will have the same theme. Walls throughout the hotel will feature photos showcasing St. Petersburg’s history.
Part of the lobby has been converted into The Scott, to honor Francis Scott, the original owner of the property and the first name for the hotel when it opened in 1921. The Scott is offering classic cocktails and locally roasted coffee in a partnership with HoggBatch Coffee of St. Petersburg. HoggBatch will create an everyday coffee blend for The Scott, and the bar will also offer some of HoggBatch’s specialty brews.
“We want to create an experience not just for people staying there but also for people who may be walking by who want to spend some time there. We want it to be open to everybody,” said Tommy Del Zoppo, New Hotel Collection chief investment officer. “We think it’s a tremendous opportunity to showcase a real historical property and we’re very excited about that … It’s not just ours. It’s the whole community’s.”
St. Pete visitors
TDZ Cordova, a Largo company headed by founding investors Del Zoppo, CEO Alex Hodges, and Chief Operating Officer Ron New, bought the Cordova Inn in December for $3 million.
“My founding partner and myself live in St. Pete. We’ve watched the city grow and develop into a cultural destination. We wanted to get a footprint into St. Pete, so when the Cordova came up for sale, we jumped on it,” Del Zoppo said.
The Cordova is the fourth hotel in New Hotel Collection’s portfolio. The company also owns New Hotel Collection Harbourside Resort in Indian Rocks Beach, New Hotel Collection Beachside Resort in Indian Shores and New Hotel Collection Smoky Mountains, in Sevierville, Tennessee.
“We know that people who visit St. Petersburg are different than those who stay at our beach properties. The person who comes to St. Petersburg is coming to experience the Pier, the museums, the food and the wonderful city that it has become. We wanted to take that property and give an experience of this wonderful hotel that has roots back to 1921. We want to deliver a five-star experience at a three-star cost,” Del Zoppo said.
There’s not a lot of affordable hotel space in downtown St. Petersburg, he said. New Hotel Collection hopes that a high-quality and affordable hotel experience will encourage people planning a one-day trip to St. Pete to extend that to an overnight visit or longer.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, New Hotel Collection’s beach properties are especially appealing to families because they offer two and three bedroom condos with direct access to the beach, avoiding crowded lobbies and congregate dining.
Still, the pandemic made 2020 a tough year for the entire hospitality industry. New Hotel Collection’s bookings were down 20 percent and revenue dropped from $8.4 million in 2019 to $7.6 million in 2020.
But the company remained profitable by trimming costs and getting consistent revenue from its loyalty club, which had a 60 percent year-over-year increase in membership.
The club’s 1,100 members pay a monthly fee to prepay for rooms at New Hotel Collection properties, using long-term financing to pay for their stays. Guests don’t have to be members of the loyalty club to stay at the properties, but club members get discounts.
Del Zoppo compared the business model to Uber.
“You get into an Uber and you use it and you leave it. You don’t own it. You don’t worry about the maintenance,” he said. “We’ve taken that model and said we can apply it to vacations.”
Through marketing partnerships, loyalty club members also get access to Wyndham Hotels & Resorts as well as Choice Hotels and Ascend, a Choice brand. New Hotel Collection retains its own brand name and does not use the Wyndham or Ascend brands, but under a reciprocal relationship the national brands can send overflow reservations to New Hotel Collection.
“We are lucky enough to be in areas where some of these large hotels are not, especially I think St. Pete, which has been overlooked as a vacation destination,” Del Zoppo said. “We help them with the overflow for a destination that they may be looking to get into. We can take in people in their reservation system and they can break into a new market without having to build a new hotel in that market.”
New Hotel expects to make additional acquisitions with a focus on the Tampa Bay area, but it’s not in a hurry to add properties.
“We want to be able to focus on making Cordova tremendous and then move on to the next opportunity,” Del Zoppo said. “A lot of times companies grow too fast. That devalues the experience for people staying at the property … It’s important for us to focus on one project at a time and not grow too fast, although we are pretty ambitious on where we want to go.”
Closer look: History
The Cordova Inn first opened as the Hotel Scott in 1921 and became the Hotel Cordova in 1923.
It was renamed the Pier Hotel in 2001, and then renamed the Cordova Inn in 2014, honoring the longstanding Cordova name.