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Q&A with Vanessa Williams

January 17, 2024


Community Voices

Q&A with Vanessa Williams

St. Pete boasts extraordinary parks, diverse restaurants, vibrant bars and a mix of boutique and expansive shops, creating truly memorable experiences for visitors. Our thriving art scene is showcased by countless renowned galleries, museums and murals throughout the city. When connecting with guests at The Vinoy, a recurring theme emerges – they deliberately choose to stay Downtown because it grants them access to this mosaic of experiences.
- Vanessa Williams, General Manager, Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

Our region continues to receive travel recognitions and awards. What is it that tips the scales in our favor as a region? What prompts those visitors to then choose Downtown?

Downtown St. Pete has a charm and spirit that sets our community apart from others. Nestled along the waterfront, St. Pete boasts extraordinary parks, diverse restaurants, vibrant bars and a mix of boutique and expansive shops, creating truly memorable experiences for visitors. Our thriving art scene is showcased by countless renowned galleries, museums and murals throughout the city. When connecting with guests at The Vinoy, a recurring theme emerges – they deliberately choose to stay Downtown because it grants them access to this mosaic of experiences.


What are visitors seeking when they arrive in Downtown? How are we exceeding expectations? Any observed weaknesses or needs?

When visitors arrive at The Vinoy in Downtown St. Pete, they are seeking an encompassing experience. They want to explore all that our city has to offer and then relax at our pool and spa or plan a round of golf.  As a community, we exceed those expectations by not only offering a plethora of attractions to choose from, but by ensuring that there is always something new for guests to explore. For example, in 2024, The Vinoy is the official hotel partner for the highly anticipated exhibition, “Dalí & The Impressionists” at the coveted Dalí Museum. This exceptional showcase will feature a diverse selection of French Impressionist paintings, many of which are on view for the very first time in Florida. This partnership embodies a harmonious blend of art and hospitality, offering an immersive experience for art enthusiasts and visitors alike.

Our current pivotal opportunity lies in amplifying our destination's reputation and augmenting visitor demand across domestic and international markets. A testament to this potential was showcased through the successful hosting of prominent events such as the Marriott General Manager Conference, attracting over 300 global attendees, and the highly anticipated annual Internova Luxury Travel Conference, which enticed 300 high-end luxury travel advisors and agency owners. These events vividly portrayed the allure and offerings of Downtown St. Pete.


Tell me about the Vinoy’s recent renovation and how your property is appealing to demands.

Our recent renovations reflect a rebirth of our resort, which has been a luxury hospitality icon for nearly 100 years. The sensitive restoration of our public spaces and full renovation of our guest rooms appeal to the demands of our guests by offering the elegance and charm that The Vinoy has always been known for, with a mixture of elevated modern amenities. The comprehensive renovation was completed by world-renowned architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, and Hart Howerton as design architect, who were tasked with capturing the magic of Florida’s Golden Age and celebrating The Vinoy’s rich history through a refined yet sophisticated lens. Rockwell Group’s design of The Vinoy’s elegant guestrooms is influenced by Florida’s coastal topography and features the hotel’s signature polished palette, streamlined crown molding and dramatic fixtures that create a sense of laid-back sophistication. Commissioned, custom art by painter Alicia LaChance adorns the walls, while the floors transition from wood to custom, blue-patterned carpeting, presenting the look of sand meeting the sea and creating distinction between the sleeping area and the rest of the room. In the King rooms, cane panels separate the entry vestibule from the bedroom area, furthering the coastal feel. Luxurious stone-covered bathrooms, most of which have marble walk-in showers, feature luxe Ortigia Sicilia toiletries. Other in-room amenities include a coffee station and charming dressing area that make every room feel welcoming and spacious, creating a special moment upon entry. Additional re-imagined spaces throughout the hotel include our legendary Veranda; refined grand lobby; historic ballrooms and meeting spaces; diverse international dining experiences; and a new spa and wellness area. And as a new Autograph Collection property we had to ensure that every detail was carefully considered, so we brought in a respected historic preservation expert to help advise our team throughout the renovation process. Travelers nowadays are seeking immersive experiences in addition to beautiful spaces, so we created programs like our History Tour and High Tea to further bring the property to life. This experience in particular celebrates the story of The Vinoy along with the time-honored tradition of afternoon tea. Locals and hotel guests alike immerse themselves in the rich past of The Vinoy as our in-house docent guides them through a one-hour walking tour of the hotel and our brand-new History Gallery. The experience ends with a fabulous High Tea with finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and delectable, sweet treats from our talented pastry team.


Looking back over the past three years, how has Downtown hospitality fared, compared to other markets around the nation? In what ways are we better/worse off than some of our peers?

Focusing on the right business remains pivotal. Catering to diverse clienteles like luxury leisure travelers and incentive group travelers necessitates tapping into St. Pete's vibrant arts and culture scene, its diverse culinary offerings, and exceptional hospitality. The city's walkable downtown serves as a cornerstone for our sustained expansion.


Do you see our community supporting and fostering the hospitality industry?

I do very much see the St. Pete community supporting the hospitality industry. We are all working together to make the city quite an amazing place to travel to. The Vinoy’s recent refresh has inspired countless St. Pete community members to visit. Our diverse new food and beverage concepts elevate the resort as an inviting and stylish social hub, removing the lines where the hotel stops and the community begins. Lottie, our new chic French patisserie in the resort’s lobby, serves exquisite house-made pastries and sweets. It is a perfect respite for locals whether they stop in for a coffee after their morning walk at Vinoy Park or pick up special occasion treats for the holidays. The Vinoy’s reimagined Veranda, overlooking the glistening Tampa Bay, has introduced an enticing new menu of creative takes on classic craft cocktails, plus Mediterranean inspired shareable plates, light entrees and desserts which are best enjoyed while joining in on the storied Vinoy tradition of relaxing in a rocking chair while taking in the gorgeous waterfront views. Parasol, a vibrant Latin American-inspired, full-service outdoor restaurant with panoramic views of the Tampa Bay waterfront, overlooks the historic resort’s all new glamorous pool deck. Parasol creates an energetic, island-like atmosphere with a menu starring fresh seafood, bright flavors and spices, and tropical craft cocktails ideal for poolside indulging.

The Vinoy actively engages with the community, cultivating reciprocal support through various local partnerships. Among these are collaborations with esteemed institutions like the Dali Museum and the St. Pete Arts Alliance, actively supporting events like the 10-year celebration of the SHINE Mural Festival in 2024. By seamlessly integrating with the community, we're committed to nurturing the hospitality industry in St. Pete in a profoundly meaningful manner.

Being involved in the larger scope is paramount to me. Playing a pivotal role in esteemed organizations such as the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation, and Waterfront Park Foundation keeps us intricately connected to various facets of the community, offering support from multiple angles. Our commitment to community welfare aligns seamlessly with Marriott Serve 360, empowering communities through year-round social responsibility efforts driven by The Vinoy team. Prioritizing giving back to our St. Pete community remains at the core of our mission.

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