New Florida Keys hotels make push in South Florida

New Keys hotels beckon to South Florida

The Florida Keys come calling.

New hotels and resorts in Monroe County want to spread the word to their neighbors to the north that there are more places to stay and play in its popular waterfront destinations.

From Key Largo to Key West, several new lodgings have opened, and a handful more are coming before year's end.

"We're promoting to put us out there and get us on everyone's radar," Adelheid Salas, general manager of The Marker Waterfront Resort in Key West said on a recent promotional tour across Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

The 96-room Marker hotel at 200 William St. opened in December and is the first hotel in 20 years to be built in Old Town Key West, a historic district known for tourist attractions, boating and watersports.

"It's a great location a couple of blocks off Duval Street, a wonderful island getaway," said Salas, while on a stop in Fort Lauderdale.

Duval Street is Key West's popular downtown entertainment, dining and shopping district.

The Marker's summer room rates begin at $199 per night plus there's a $25 daily resort fee.

Resort offerings include three swimming pools, an open-air restaurant and bar — Cero Bodega — and indoor and outdoor meeting and event space that can accommodate up to 100 people. The grounds of the resort are dotted with animal-themed and historically inspired sculptures created by local Key West artists.

"South Florida is a huge market for us all year round, but especially in the summer," Salas said.

The Keys attracts nearly 3 million overnight visitors annually, tourism records show.

The Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach area is the No. 2 source of visitors to the Keys annually behind New York, according to data from nSight for Travel, a provider of online consumer shopping intelligence for the travel industry. During July, August and September, the area is No. 1.

From Fort Lauderdale, it's less than a four-hour drive to Key West and under five hours from West Palm Beach. And it's about a 60-minute flight on Silver Airways from Fort Lauderdale to Key West International Airport.

On July 17, the 110-room Amara Cay Resort at 80001 Overseas Highway in Islamorada hosted a grand opening. It opened earlier this year after a multimillion-dollar remodeling and rebranding from a Hampton Inn.

"We have always relied on South Floridians to come down and fill us up during busy as well as softer times," said Amy Cornaire, area marketing manager for Islamorada Resort Co., which owns the Amara Cay.

The outfit also operates nearby properties — Pelican Cove Resort & Marina, Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina and La Siesta Resort & Marina.

"We depend on the South Florida market mostly during the summer," Cornaire said.

Marketing for Amara Cay has included ads in lifestyle magazines, email alerts to meeting planners and outreach to wedding and event planners. "We're getting the word out and we're staying busy."

Later this year, Key Largo — the northernmost and longest island in the Keys — will welcome the 155-room Playa Largo Resort & Spa.

The property will feature include 10 bungalows, a two-story, three-bedroom Florida mansion and an 8,000-square-foot manicured wedding lawn that can host up to 800 people.

"It's the first new-build [hotel] in Key Largo in 21 years," said Mark Calibo, Playa Largo's director of sales and marketing.

The new "upper upscale" resort at 97450 Overseas Highway, originally expected to open this summer, now has a target date of Dec. 16, Calibo said.

Nightly room rates at Playa Largo will start in the mid-$400s in winter season and in the high $200s in summer, he said.

"We have campaigns lined up starting mid-August and running through December," said Calibo of promotions in South Florida.

Across all three counties, Calibo's sales and catering team will be visiting corporate business parks, travel agents, tour operators and wedding specialists to get the word out about the new resort.

"Sixty percent of our wedding leads to date are from Palm Beach and Boca Raton," he said.

Other new hotels in the Keys include The Fairfield Inn & Suites and the Gates Hotel in Key West. A Hilton Garden Inn is set to open in 2015, according to Florida Keys tourism records.

asatchell@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport

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