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New St. Regis manager hopes resort will be ‘Longboat’s living room’

Winfred Van Workum sheds light on the service and amenities needed to make it a Forbes Five-Star property.

Drone pictures from August 2023 show the St. Regis Longboat Key making progress ahead of its expected March 2024 completion.
Drone pictures from August 2023 show the St. Regis Longboat Key making progress ahead of its expected March 2024 completion.
Courtesy photo
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Winfred Van Workum knew minutes into his first hard hat tour of the St. Regis Longboat Key that it would be a special project. 

He was all in. 

To be a part of a project from the beginning and "really create something very special" is unique for the St. Regis Longboat Key's newly appointed general manager. 

But Van Workum is no stranger to managing high-end resorts. 

He’s previously been the general manager for the St. Regis Bal Harbour, the St. Regis Washington, D.C., and the Ritz-Carlton New York. 

At the Sept. 18 first public hearing for the new parking plans, Unicorp National Developments, Inc. President Chuck Whittall announced the project had chosen Van Workum as the general manager for the St. Regis Longboat Key.

Now he’s excited to be a part of the St. Regis Longboat Key from the pre-opening stage. Construction is scheduled to wrap up around spring of 2024, and Van Workum already has plans in place to get the resort on track to being the luxury destination it’s advertised to become. 

“It’s going extremely well,” Van Workum said. “We just have a great construction company, and the developer, Unicorp, is a really experienced and great developer.”

He noted how passionate and involved Whittall is in the project, making sure everything is “top-notch.”

“If you have such a dedicated team from all angles, it just moves forward really quickly,” Van Workum said. 

The last couple cities Van Workum dealt with are larger in terms of population. 

He said in a hotel in cities like New York, the market is usually people from California or Florida that come to visit New York. But in Florida, the market is usually people from the Northeast coming to visit.

That’s what he saw on the East Coast. 

For the St. Regis Longboat Key, Van Workum anticipates a similar market, drawing in a high-end traveler demographic. 

“We’re really positioning the hotel as a destination where I think we’re really going to market this to some of the top travel agents in the world,” Van Workum said. 

Staff attitude

The hiring process for this market is also going to look a little different. 

In markets that have a lot of nearby high-end resorts, like New York City and Miami, it’s easier to find people with experience. 

But here, Van Workum said he’s looking to deploy another strategy — hire on attitude, train on experience. 

Winfred Van Workum is no stranger to managing high end resorts. Now, he's ready to take on the St. Regis Longboat Key.
Image courtesy of Martin Martinez

“We’re really looking for people with gracious hospitality and beautiful, warm hospitality and personalities,” Van Workum said. “But we are planning to focus a lot on Forbes’ Five-Star standards.”

The goal — to make the St. Regis Longboat Key the first Forbes Five-Star resort on the Gulf Coast. 

This comes with a lot of training, like Van Workum said, including how to properly open a bottle of wine, ensuring everything is properly cleaned and what Van Workum calls “anticipatory service” — sort of like mind-reading to anticipate the needs of guests. 

Butler service will also be a key factor in the exemplary service Van Workum is trying to create. 

Right now, Van Workum said the team is recruiting some of the executive roles, like the director of engineering. Hourly positions won’t be hired until about a month out from opening. 

Though a lot of marketing will cater to high-end world travelers, Van Workum is still focused on the resort’s connection to Longboat Key. 

“I think we also really want to be a big part of the community,” Van Workum said. “One thing that I’ve learned is that the Colony hotel always was a very special spot in the community — a lot of events there, a lot of people would socially meet there. And I think that’s really important for us with this resort.” 

He hopes the resort will be a meeting spot, and act as “kind of the living room of Longboat Key.” 

Van Workum is excited to show off the unique amenities that the resort will offer, both to resort guests and the Longboat Key community. 

This includes a 4-acre saltwater lagoon, complete with tropical fish and stingrays. And two resident Galapagos tortoises, the largest tortoises in the world. 

The resort’s spa could be an all-day affair, Van Workum said. A hair salon, nail salon, massages and relaxation areas are just the beginning. 

Food and beverages are also key. 

A more upscale restaurant will focus on steaks and seafood, whereas a more “approachable” Italian restaurant will be great for families, Van Workum said. 

A bar on the second floor is positioned perfectly to watch the sunset. 

“I think that’s going to be the spot for sunset watching on Longboat Key,” Van Workum said. 

The Colony famously had The Monkey Room Bar. The St. Regis will pay homage to this popular community spot, in the way of a tiki bar near the beach. 

The team was also inspired by the area’s connection to the Ringling Bros. in creating the resort’s oval-shaped ballroom. 

Just talking about the future amenities and specialty cocktails brings a certain light to Van Workum’s eyes. 

Hospitality is in Van Workum’s blood. His family worked in hospitality and some owned their own hotels and restaurants. 

“I just realized that it’s something I have a true passion for,” Van Workum said. “We’re really providing experiences to our guests, that really satisfies me when I see all these memories that we can create for guests.” 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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