|By Randy Diamond, Tampa Tribune, Fla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 28, 2004 - TAMPA, Fla. -- Operators of Tampa's first major new hotel to open in four years, the Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza, say they are sparing no expense in preparing the hotel for August's opening and winning top ratings from the two key travel rating services.
If the 293-room, $45 million hotel, scheduled to open Aug. 2, can win a four-diamond rating from AAA and a four-star rating from Mobil Travel Guides, it could instantly distinguish the hotel in the city's crowded hotel market.
That would give it a marketing edge.
A three-star or three-diamond rating is considered the norm for most major hotels. If the Renaissance lands the top ratings it would become one of just two lodging properties in the city to earn a four-star rating from the travel services.
The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay is the only hotel in Tampa to have a four-star rating from Mobil and a four-star rating from the AAA.
Several properties in St. Petersburg have four-star ratings, though in some cases not from both rating services.
For example, the Renaissance Vinoy in St Petersburg has a four-diamond rating from AAA, but a three-star rating from Mobil.
Achieving top ratings from the two travel services -- the highest ratings being five stars or five diamonds -- can be a financial boost for a hotel because many travelers use ratings to guide their hotel selections, experts say.
A higher rating can help fill rooms and justify higher rates, experts note. The Renaissance said it expects rates for a room with a queen bed or two doubles to average $249. That same room will book for about half that on weekends.
The new Renaissance hopes to achieve a top rating by offering highly personal service in an atmosphere reminiscent of a grand home in the Costa del Sol area of Spain, said hotel general manager Jim Bartholomay.
Showing a reporter around the eight-story hotel nearing completion, Bartholomay cited several examples of how the hotel's personal service will heighten the experience of guests staying at the hotel.
For example, guests will be offered complimentary gourmet olives at an olive bar after checking in. Other perks will include an evening visit by maids to turn down the bedsheets, designer linens and check-in registration at a concierge-type desk rather than a big hotel counter.
Ultimately, though, it will be up to the rating services, which rely on inspectors to determine whether the hotel lives up to the high standards required to make the grade for the top ratings. It could take as long as a year before the hotel learns what ratings the two services issue.
Janie Graziani, a spokeswoman for AAA, said only 3.1 percent of hotels achieve a four-diamond rating.
Bartholomay said the Renaissance plans to put a major emphasis on attracting business travelers and business conferences. He says the hotel plans to market its location several minutes away from Tampa International Airport and the shopping and restaurants of International Plaza.
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(c) 2004, Tampa Tribune, Fla. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. XOM,