Google the words “Longboat Key,” “Hilton” and “alternatives.”
The first search result will take you to the website hiltonlongboatkeyalternative.com — which redirects you to the website of Sand Cay Beach Resort, the Hilton’s next-door neighbor to the south.
The Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort isn’t accepting reservations after April 30, in preparation for a $24 million redevelopment and expansion project. That means the Key will have 102 fewer rooms during construction, which Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties anticipates will last 16 to 18 months.
Of course, Ocean Properties has other options in the area. It’s the owner of the Resort at Longboat Key Club, Lido Beach Resort and Lido Beach Holiday Inn. Karen Rangel, regional director of sales for Ocean Properties, said she couldn’t comment on the company’s plans to bring Hilton guests to the company’s other resorts.
But other properties, such as the 60-unit Sand Cay, are happy to spread the message that they are ready to welcome Hilton guests.
“We opened up the website to be able to capture anyone who might be staying there,” said General Manager Elaine Frederick, who said the resort got a few new visitors last year, when the Hilton planned to close in May 2013.
Because many Sand Cay guests walk to the Hilton’s restaurants, the resort’s board is looking into other ways to provide snack foods and beverages to guests, including a possible partnership with Harry’s Continental Kitchens.
At the 102-unit Casa Del Mar Beach Resort, located just a block north of the Hilton, owners dropped the minimum stay from seven nights to four nights in anticipation of the resort’s plans to close in May, according to General Manager Mark Meador.
The resort could drop the minimum stay further to three nights because many Hilton guests book shorter stays.
“We’re hoping to pull a few of them in,” Meador said. “If we can just keep them in this area, that would be the goal.”
Chris Bushman, manager at Sea Club I, said the 24-unit resort hasn’t done anything specific to advertise to Hilton guests, but has had individuals who are staying at the resort stop by for a brochure.
At the 50-unit Diplomat Beach Resort, marketing coordinator and reservations manager Matt Angelo said he reached out to Hilton officials to let them know that the resort could accommodate some guests.
“In season, we have a minimum stay of seven days and that’s pretty firm because we have a lot of return guests,” Angelo said. “But after the middle of March, we can go into one or two nights. We are very flexible with dates.”
Still, some have concerns about the impact of the Hilton’s temporary closure.
Jim McGucken, manager at the Sun ’n’ Sea Cottages & Apartments, located next door to the Hilton on the north, said the 24-unit property typically has an 80% to 90% occupancy rate, which is why he doesn’t plan to do anything to draw Hilton guests.
But he’s concerned about the impact of construction, although he credits Hilton officials with being receptive to his concerns.
“I’m apprehensive as to what it could do,” McGucken said. “It could hurt us with them working outside. We’re working with them, and they’ve been good neighbors.”
Gail Loefgren, president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, believes the Hilton’s closing will impact local businesses.
“It’s like the Holiday Inn when it closed,” she said. “The nice thing about the Hilton is that visitors can come and stay one or two nights. In season, it’s always nice to have places like that.”
The temporary loss of meeting rooms will also affect local organizations, including the chamber, Loefgren said, adding:
“But we’ll be happy to have a new and rebuilt Hilton.”
The project will add 85 rooms with Gulf views to the Longboat Key hotel in a new tower on the property.
The existing property, including its current 102 rooms, will be gutted and remodeled. The property will get a remodeled pool area, new lobby building and new restaurant/meeting space building.
The Longboat Key Town Commission approved the project in January. The Hilton expects to re-open in fall 2015.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]