When Naples Bay Resort & Marina opened in 2007, the timing was awkward. The economic crash of 2008 was around the corner.
Fast-forward to 2021, when the 22-acre resort/club complex at the entrance to Aqualane Shores is basking in a multi-million dollar facelift. The timing is serendipitous, because the changes represent exactly what today’s wary yet eager travelers crave – lots of space, open air, exercise, access to boating – and safety protocols that are practiced and visible, meriting certification by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
For most local residents who drive by the property daily, a lot has changed since their last visit. “People are shocked,” says marketing manager Paul Ditheridge.
Highlights: Most of the 87 units at the resort’s hotel wing have been remodeled, freshened and converted to suites; the exercise room at the property’s club wing – available to local members as well as resort guests – is fully re-equipped to the tune of $400,000 and expanded, ideal for distancing, with full locker rooms with steam rooms and saunas; high-tech game space at the club addresses the only amenity missing from a traditional country club, golf, as well as much more (hockey, baseball, target practice, etc.) for all ages; the club’s full-service restaurant and bars are upgraded; while the popular five outdoor pools, lazy river, bar, tennis, spa, yoga center and more all remain, with fresh looks.
The club section features 109 units called cottages, which owners can use or add to the rental inventory.
Held over from the resort wing, to the west of the club across Sandpiper Street, are two restaurants including Bonefish Grill, the picturesque signature 97-slip marina, storefronts including a jeweler, three yacht brokers, a to-go café and ships store. A special events space, The Point, with 2,500 square feet is using the pandemic “quiet” time to remodel with new floors and lighting, anticipating the full return of riverfront weddings, business meetings and Sunday evening concerts.
A garden setting for evening activity is new – a prime example of what Ditheridge means when he says: “We are independent, not part of a chain. If we want to do something, we do it.”
Another example: An authentic London minicab (“my pride and joy”) that shuttles guests is parked out front.
Jack Wert, Collier County tourism director, sums up the big picture. ”Naples Bay Resort fills a unique niche in our destination,” he explains. “It was built as a condo hotel with some units owned outright and some in the rental pool for transient stays. That provides a nice atmosphere for transient guests who get the feeling of being a part of the Naples community during their stay.
“The resort’s unique waterfront location that includes a working marina with boat rentals and built-in shopping and dining venues adds to its uniqueness. The convenience of walking distance to Tin City and the array of restaurants, shopping and arts and culture venues and entertainment also adds to its attractiveness to both our International and domestic visitors.”
Ditheridge relishes opportunities to pitch such a versatile, timely product to so many different client niches. Depending on the season of the year, he is reaching out to the Florida/Georgia market, the Midwest and Northeast, and Europe, where his native United Kingdom roots give him valuable insights.
To do all of that he partners with Collier County marketing efforts and trade shows, and embraces social media, the resort’s own and travel packaging web sites, local print media and direct mail, which targets neighbors within five miles who do not care about golf.
His message places a premium on the area’s naturally strong suit — the freedom to spread out in the great outdoors, including the Everglades, “not sitting on a beach with 10,000 people.”
“It’s all about experiences,” he says, including the resort’s powerboat, canoe and kayak rentals. At 1.3 miles or seven minutes from the beach, he sees the resort as being ideally and strategically poised at the frontier of ongoing Naples and East Naples redevelopment, including the Gulfshore Playhouse next to Naples Square.
“Our location keeps getting better and better,” says general manager John Reilly. “So does our property, which we are dedicated to maintaining and upgrading. Our members and guests tell us they like what we are doing.”
Not bad for a location that used to be home to Boat Haven, a marina and marine retail center with a tiki bar in later years, and an underachieving strip shopping center.