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Checking In With Tamara Baldanza-Dekker of Margaritaville

Checking In With Tamara Baldanza-Dekker of Margaritaville

Margaritaville opened its first resort property in 2010 in Pensacola, Florida. Since then, the brand has exploded in the hospitality space. There are eight Margaritaville properties throughout the United States and the Caribbean and more than 30 in the pipeline, including the recently announced Margaritaville at The Pointe in Nassau, Bahamas. LODGING sat down with Tamara Baldanza-Dekker, the company’s chief marketing officer, at ALIS to find out how the brand has grown over the last eight years and why the Margaritaville concept is so successful in hotel form.

Has it been a busy ALIS for you?

I think we have at least 50 meetings on the books. It’s a lot. It’s great to see the shift over the last few years. We’re somewhat new to the industry, and people are curious about us. Especially now that we’ve proven that we offer an elevated product. We’re casual-luxe, and people are now seeking us out, which is so nice. Just a few years ago we were asking for appointments, now people are calling us and asking to set up meetings. And it’s not just new development, we also have owners looking to rebrand their properties as Margaritaville hotels. We’re currently in the midst of rebranding two Driftwood Hospitality Management properties, including Tan-Tar-A, which is a resort in the Ozarks that has been open since the 70s. Driftwood acquired the property in June and decided to rebrand it. There’s also a property in Costa Rica, the Flamingo, that’s being rebranded into a Margaritaville. Also, last year, actually almost to the day, we took the Westin flag down in Key West and that iconic Westin property is now a Margaritaville. Very, very successful developers are seeing the value of converting their properties into Margaritavilles, and it’s a very exciting time for us!

You currently have more than 30 properties in the works. What are the challenges of managing such a large pipeline?

We pride ourselves on giving our partners absolute attention. We need to. We’re available 24 hours a day, and we’re always there to offer support. We help train and brand, we give developers and operators guidance on marketing and PR. With so many hotels in the pipeline, we want to be sure we’re giving each property the attention it deserves.

Does this mean you’re growing the Margaritaville team?

Absolutely. We just brought Rick Cunningham in as vice president of development and he really has an understanding of this world that we needed. Just on my team alone, we’re growing the PR and marketing side to ensure that we’re giving our partners the support that they need. Our hospitality division is growing. We’re just trying to keep up. And we’re doing a great job. I don’t want to toot our own horn, but we keep having developers and partners come back for second, third, and sometimes even fourth properties. So I know we’re doing what we need to be doing.

What differentiates Margaritaville properties from other resorts?

As a brand, the biggest growth areas for us are resorts, lodging, and real estate. We have hotels, vacation homes, and even a 55-and-better community, Latitude Margaritaville. And, many of these projects are intertwined. We’re not just putting a single hotel on a plot of land—well, in some cases we are—but oftentimes we’re essentially planning an entire community. Some of the properties don’t just include vacation rentals, but also permanent residences. We currently developing a 300-acre property in Orlando that’ll have 187 hotel rooms, 300 timeshare vacation condos, and up to 1,000 vacation cottages. We really have to consider how all of those elements work together.

As a relatively new brand in the hotel segment, how is Margaritaville spreading brand awareness?

One of the biggest ways we raise awareness is through a college ambassador program, which we recently rebranded as Margaritaville University. The program is all about sharing the Margaritaville lifestyle. We give students big boxes of swag and they get cards that help them collect email addresses and give people discount codes for Margaritaville products. They’re also ways for the students to raise money for charitable endeavors. We asked that whatever they do, they do it the good of the campus. It’s also great to see their perspective on the brand. We don’t want to just be marketing to older folks. This brand really has something for everyone.

 

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