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