NEW YORK — At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Margaritaville Holdings CEO John Cohlan feared the worst — that nobody would feel comfortable going on vacation wearing a mask and with health issues to worry about.
But the resilience of leisure travel prevailed, and today Cohlan is more convinced than ever that leisure is “the sweet spot in the hotel industry,” both from a demand and a development point of view.
It’s a mindset his company has prioritized since its inception. A name like “Margaritaville” is synonymous with leisure, but Cohlan’s priorities lay in finding different ways to serve up Margaritaville’s signature brand of leisure lifestyle experiences for all types of guests in all types of locations.
The last few years have brought a flurry of firsts for the company: In July 2020, the company’s first Compass by Margaritaville hotel opened on Anna Maria Sound in Florida. In July 2021, the company’s first urban resort, Margaritaville Resort Times Square, opened in New York City. And in September, bookings opened for the first St. Somewhere Resort, the company’s new boutique hotel offering in partnership with Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Margaritaville St. Somewhere Punta Coco, Holbox Island by Karisma is set for a winter 2022 opening.
“We’re going to see a lot more developer commitment to this leisure segment of the industry because of the performance over the last two years,” Cohlan told Hotel News Now in a recent video interview. “Leisure — and not just beachfront leisure, but leisure in the mountains, at lakes, even leisure vacations in cities — performed so well in the recession.”
Cohlan is particularly proud of the 32-story, 234-room vertical resort in Times Square, owned and developed by Soho Properties. Featuring the only year-round outdoor heated pool in Times Square and a 32-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty holding a margarita, the property has attracted many locals for staycations since its July opening, Cohlan said. Tourists are also returning to the city, particularly following the November opening of international borders.
“It was a bit of a bold move to build a resort in the middle of maybe the largest and most frenetic city,” Cohlan said. “It speaks to people’s priorities and how they like to live their lives. Even in the middle of an exciting sightseeing day, leisure is something important. … And while we’re not pretending to be on the beach, there’s really that same sort of vibe that people respond to.”
That vacation vibe is the through line that characterizes all of Margaritaville’s brands, including the Compass by Margaritaville brand, which is designed for smaller resort markets that may not have the capacity for a full Margaritaville resort, Cohlan said.
“It’s a boutique/select-service property that is very much a happy place. A place with a wonderful bar, good food, a type of hotel where you’d come back at the end of the day to meet new people or have a drink with friends,” he said.
Next up for Compass will be properties in Medford, Oregon; Beaufort, North Carolina; and Louisville, Kentucky.
The brand is attractive to developers who are interested in the explosion of leisure demand in smaller markets, he added.
“It’s just another way for people to participate both on the investment side and on the side of being a guest in the environment we create,” he said.
Today the company has more than 25 hotels and resorts open around the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America, under its Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts and Compass Hotels brands, as well as its Margaritaville All-Inclusive Resorts properties operated by Karisma. Other offerings under the parent brand include cottages and home rentals, vacation resorts in partnership with Wyndham, RV resorts and several condo offerings, in addition to the company’s eponymous bars and restaurants.
However the brand extends, Cohlan said it always comes back to the leisure lifestyle associated with the Margaritaville name.
“We’re excited to be able to get back to having a good time, being social, being productive,” Cohlan said.
For more from HNN’s conversation with Cohlan, watch the video above.
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