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Pandemic didn’t slow Super Bowl business for hoteliers

Brian Hartz

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Harbourside Resort in Indian Rocks Beach was fully booked up for Super Bowl week.

Even amid a global pandemic, the allure of Tom Brady and the history-making Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing on home turf in Super Bowl LV proved irresistible for tourists — and local hoteliers, even across the bay in Pinellas County, reaped the rewards.

Tommy Del Zoppo, whose company New Hotel Collection owns Harbourside Resort in Indian Rocks Beach, Beachside Resort in Indian Shores and the Cordova Inn in downtown St. Petersburg, told the Catalyst he was extremely pleased with occupancy rates during Super Bowl week. Not only were all of his properties sold out, which didn’t come as a surprise, but length of stay was longer than anticipated. Visitors at his beach properties stayed for an average of five nights, while Cordova’s average stay was three nights.

“We did have some cancellations, but then [bookings] built right back up,” Del Zoppo said, adding that it’s normal to have a few cancellations per week and he doesn’t think they were necessarily related to the pandemic. However, unpredictability around the game in terms of in-person attendance could have been a factor in some decisions to cancel.

Tommy Del Zoppo is New Hotel Collection’s founder and chief investment officer.

High demand allowed Del Zoppo to temporarily raise his rates by about 10 percent. The Cordova Inn, at 253 2nd Ave. N., offers standard king rooms for $129 during the week and $229 on weekends, while deluxe king rooms are available for $149 on weekdays and $249 on weekends.

At Harbourside Resort, meanwhile, a standard king room costs around $409 per night, plus tax, during the week. Beachside Resort standard one-bed rooms are priced at $429 per night during the week. Harbourside and Beachside both require a minimum three-night stay.

“It was nothing crazy, but we definitely took advantage of the Super Bowl being down here … there was massive demand,” Del Zoppo said. “We still wanted to sit within a good price range and make sure we are offering a good product at a fair price.”

Del Zoppo said his properties saw much higher demand from in-state travelers, which is a good sign because it shows how much the Tampa Bay area’s profile has grown among Floridians. The region was already a popular destination for out-of-state and international tourists, but with the pandemic continuing to hamper people’s ability and desire to travel long distances, appealing to in-state travelers will be key to hoteliers’ success for the remainder of the year and possibly into 2022, as well. And it helps that, in addition to being known for having some of the best beaches in the world, the region has another claim to fame.

“There’s no doubt,” Del Zoppo said, that “Tampa Bay is the sports capital of the U.S. now.”

With Brady coming back for another season with the Bucs, Del Zoppo expects interest in Tampa Bay as a destination for sports fans to remain very high, especially if Raymond James Stadium is able to operate at full capacity in the fall. That interest, he added, should lead to halcyon days for the region’s battered hospitality sector.

“People will always come here,” he said. “But now, they’re saying, ‘You know what, let’s go watch a game and get a week’s vacation out of it.’”

Also, with the Jacksonville Jaguars reeling from a 1-15 campaign and the Miami Dolphins missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, the Bucs, Del Zoppo added, might have a chance to become Florida’s team of choice.

“I think what you’ll see,” he said, “is we’ll pull from other parts of the state, because of the hype from the Super Bowl win … you’ll see people coming over from different parts of the state to stay at our properties.”

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