Looking Ahead to 2019: Q&A With Margaritaville’s Tamara Baldanza-Dekker

Margaritaville

Margaritaville has been steadily increasing its pipeline since opening its first resort in Pensacola, Fla., eight years ago. In July, the company launched upscale, boutique, select-service brand COMPASS and has signed five properties, as of press time, with more in the works. LODGING caught up with Margaritaville’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tamara Baldanza-Dekker, during this year’s Lodging Conference to discuss what’s ahead for Margaritaville next year.

How has Margaritaville evolved since last year’s Lodging Conference?
We’ve really established ourselves in the space and it’s nice to see people who years ago didn’t really get us waiting in line to talk to us. We’ve got all these developers that want to do projects with us, and we’ve got developers who are coming back. With our new  COMPASS brand that we just launched in July, that’s added a whole new layer of folks wanting to come and see us—people who maybe can’t do a 300 room resort but have a plot of land that can fit a 150 room COMPASS. They’re really excited they can at least step their toes into the Margaritaville world.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?
Our Orlando property, which will be the largest property in our portfolio, is opening up in January. It’s a 300-acre property with 1,000 vacation homes, a nearly 200-room hotel, a water park and lagoons, and 200,000 square feet of retail space. It’s this crazy beautiful property right outside of the gates of Disney, so that is going to be open next year and we’re all really excited.

Advertisement

We’re also opening our first downtown, metropolitan property in Nashville’s SoBro district right by the convention center next year. We’ve got a lot of history in Nashville—a lot of the Coral Reefers, Jimmy’s brand, live there; we’ve got a restaurant that’s been there for a few years; and with our country music roots, it just makes sense.

What kind of markets are you looking at for COMPASS?
College markets and right outside of a major city. College markets are a big deal for us—they make so much sense. It’s the perfect model.

How does the Margaritaville University ambassador program tie in? 
We’re four semesters into the college ambassador program—we’ve got 250 ambassadors on 105 campuses in North America. It’s harder to get into our ambassador program than it is to get in Harvard—the acceptance rate is literally lower. Our college ambassadors are out there spreading the Margaritaville lifestyle—telling people, their friends, their family about all the great things we’re doing and all the resorts that we’re opening. They visit our properties, collect email addresses for us, and generate great user-generated content. Quite frankly, they’re infusing a younger sort of energy into our brand.

A lot of them learned about Margaritaville from their family vacations—it was the soundtrack to those vacations. Now, they’re passing it back up to their parents and they’re telling their parents it’s not just about the music anymore. You can now live in Margaritaville—because their parents are 55 and better—and they can buy homes in Latitude Margaritaville communities. It’s been interesting for us to watch a brand that’s been passed down to be passed back up.

Are there any plans to expand internationally? 
We are actively looking at expanding internationally. We resonate really well in the United Kingdom and we’re looking at China—we’re looking all over the place. There are a lot of opportunities, we just want to be careful. We want to do it right and our first location will be critical.