|By Allison Ross and Alexandra Clough, The
Palm Beach Post, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 14, 2010 -- RIVIERA BEACH -- Marriott Vacation Club, the timeshare division of the hotel giant, on Wednesday celebrated the opening of its newest timeshare resort, the 19-story Oceana Palms on Singer Island.
The resort, at 3200 N. Ocean Drive, marks the second vacation club property on Singer Island. Marriott already operates the Marriott Ocean Pointe in nearby Palm Beach Shores.
The Oceana's opening, coming as it does during the lingering recession, could provide a tourism boost to the county, as well as to Riviera Beach.
"This is a renaissance of Singer Island," said Jorge Pesquera, president and chief executive of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It adds another option to the Riviera Beach/Singer Island corridor, which used to be very significant for tourism."
The Oceana's opening is an important Marriott milestone: The property marks the company's 50th timeshare resort.
Oceana, built on the site of the former Crowne Plaza Hotel, features 91 villas, 75 of which are currently available. Each villa measures more than 1,100 square feet. The villas also come with plenty of creature comforts, including fully equipped kitchens and flat-panel televisions. Oceana's resort amenities include a full-service restaurant, pool, spas, fitness center and a climbing wall for kids.
"We felt the demand was there, and this beachfront location was a great opportunity," said James Woelbern, director of public relations for Marriott Vacation Club, based in Orlando. Although he wouldn't disclose numbers, Woelbern said sales interest in Oceana already is strong, "exceeding our expectations." And timeshare units at Ocean Pointe "have been sold out" for a number of years, he said.
Woelbern wouldn't give specific prices for the Oceana timeshares but he said Marriott timeshares typically cost $30,000 for one week, and slightly more for beachfront properties. Oceana also functions as a hotel, in which guests can rent rooms for a nightly fee.
Despite the down economy, the rental side of the business has been strong, too. Woelbern said Marriott timeshares have maintained average occupancy rates "in the mid-90 percent."
Marriott plans to build a second, 19-story tower for Oceana in the future, to bring the resort's total number of villas to 169.
Palm Beach County tourism officials praised the project, saying it would boost the region's tourism by bringing in new visitors who will then go out and dine and shop in area stores.
Pesquera pointed out that tourists staying at this resort may often have a longer stay than other tourists. "They're going to go out, go to the theater, to the Kennel Club, go shopping," he said. "It will be just a huge ripple effect on the restaurants and entertainment and retail in Palm Beach County."
Riviera Beach officials also expressed enthusiasm for the project.
"This building is going to bring in a tremendous amount of tax dollars and tourism not only to Riviera Beach, but to Palm Beach County," said Dawn Pardo, Riviera Beach City Council Chairwoman, as she looked out at the ocean from one of the resort's balconies.
She said that the Marriott's construction put a lot of local and minority residents to work; 70 percent of the laborers were minorities, and 50 percent were from Palm Beach County, she said.
In addition, she said that the resort is looking to hire locally for the more than 50 part-time and full-time positions at the hotel.
"They've really stepped up for our community," Pardo said. "What more can you ask for?"
Oceana opens to timeshare owners and guests Friday. More than 55 percent of the rooms are booked for that day, and the resort is expecting 80 percent capacity the following Friday.
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