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Clearwater Beach, Florida - A New Face

Since the 1960s, many of the mom and pop hotels on the island have locked this tourist destination in time. But recently, names like The Flamingo, The Dunes and The Patio have disappeared along with their concrete block buildings and family operations.

Change may or may not be a bad thing for Clearwater Beach and other Gulf Coast destinations. Travel destinations have life cycles. Their popularity ebbs and flows. Consumer's needs and wants change. The efficiency apartments of the 1960s and '70s are the condos of today. Travelers are more unforgiving in their level of expectation. Franchises have taught us that the light switch will always be on the right, the television will have cable and a complimentary breakfast is included.

With mom and pops, they gave you a friendship that brought you back year after year. You were on a first name basis. The coffee in the lobby was always fresh-brewed. The rooms were probably clean, but worn. There's a pretty good chance that the overall atmosphere and rooms of a small hotel resembled those of its vacationer's home. There was comfort in a different type of familiarity. Those that have survived, like the Palm Pavilion Inn, offer a consistent product with regular upgrades and friendly service.

For the last 20 years, there had been considerable turnover in ownership in these units. Foreign owners, who came to America and invested their life savings, purchased many. What they found was that the chamber of commerce was not doing as the realtor promised and filling their rooms. The real truth lie in that the previous owner had not been keeping up with the times and had done little or no marketing. The visitors, the chamber had been indeed bringing to town, were instead staying at the Hilton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Radisson and Sheraton.

With but one week to recharge their batteries, vacationers couldn't risk anything less than a guaranteed good time. The accommodations needed to offer a consistent product and service and if they didn't, the issue could be resolved with corporate.

So if you call the small hotel that you've stayed at for year and they don't answer their phone, they may no longer be there. The land under their establishment was worth more than their business and it's since been sold. It's highly likely that a condominium has replaced it or soon will.

While much of these changes probably are good and will meet the demands of future generations, it's sad that historic landmarks are also disappearing. The 80-year old Clearwater Beach Hotel on north Clearwater Beach has closed and from its foundation a condominium high-rise will shoot skyward. On the mainland, another gem, the Belleview Biltmore, is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation watch list. Seems developers are interested in the land under the "White Queen of the Gulf."

These developments will do much more than wash away the mom and pops. Less rooms mean more demand, which translates into higher rates all the way around. We've yet to learn if the additional condo units will become available for vacation rentals. Until now, there were minimal opportunities for vacationers to rent condos on Clearwater Beach. The closest thing was the Radisson Suite Resort on Sand Key, the only all-suite property, now a Marriott, just south of the island of Clearwater Beach.

As a consumer, how do you find a reputable condo rental company? In and around the St. Pete Beach-Clearwater area, there are a handful of professional condominium management companies who have been in operation since the early 1980s. They have long-recognized the benefits condo vacations offer the consumer, while meeting the needs of condo unit owners. One of those agencies is JC Resort Management on North Redington Beach. They sell sunsets, the beach, balcony views, sunshine and relaxation and rent the one-, two- and three-bedroom, fully furnished units

(877) 352-3224
(727) 464-7200

Palm Pavilion Inn
18 Bay Esplanade
Clearwater Beach, FL 33767
(800) 433-PALM
(727) 446-6777

JC Resort Management, Inc.
17200 Gulf Boulevard
North Redington Beach, FL 33708
(800) 535-7776
(800) 421-6663

Photo Courtesy: St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau - Clearwater Beach