By Rich Pollack
The landmark Holiday Inn Highland Beach is getting a facelift and a new name that will link the hotel to neighboring Delray Beach.
Town officials said they have been told the hotel, the only commercial property in the coastal town, will be renamed the Delray Sands Resort on Highland Beach as early as this month.
The change comes amid a multimillion-dollar renovation of the facility, built in 1971 and purchased in 1980 by its current owners, Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd., — one of the largest independent hotel companies in North America, with holdings throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The new name is reportedly the result of a compromise reached after an earlier proposal rankled town officials.
“Initially, they weren’t going to include Highland Beach in the name,” says Commissioner Dennis Sheridan. “We were concerned because we didn’t want to lose the recognition for the town.”
In meetings with Sheridan and other town officials, Ocean Properties agreed to include Highland Beach in the name, Sheridan said.
“It’s a very good compromise, in which they get the marketing advantage they’re looking for while the town is still included in the name,” says Highland Beach Town Manager Kathleen Weiser.
Representatives of Ocean Properties, which is expected to retain ownership and management of the hotel, declined late last month to comment about the renovations and name change until its franchise agreement with Holiday Inn expires this month.
A link on the Ocean Properties website, however, already lists the hotel as the Delray Sands Resort and links the property not only to Delray Beach but also to Boca Raton.
“After a day of meetings or sightseeing at nearby Boca Raton, guests can return to the Delray Sands Resort on Highland Beach and relax in our spacious accommodations,” the site says.
In Highland Beach, local elected representatives are welcoming the renovations to the hotel, which was expanded in 1974 from its original 81 rooms to 115 rooms.
Officials who have met with hotel representatives say rooms facing the ocean have already been renovated, while work on the remainder of the building is ongoing. In addition to upgrades to all of the guest rooms, the renovations are also expected to include improvements to the common areas, such as the popular restaurant and lounge areas, town officials said.
“This is a good thing for Highland Beach,” said Commissioner Carl Feldman. “It will bring up the whole area and make Highland Beach more of a destination for people on vacation.”
Ocean Properties’ decision to switch from a franchised chain brand to an independent resort is part of a growing trend, according to one local marketing professor, who also believes the hotel company was wise to link the property to the widely recognized Delray Beach brand.
“They’re capitalizing on the exposure Delray Beach has worked so hard to gain,” said Jennifer McFarland, an associate professor at Northwood University in West Palm Beach and chair of the university’s marketing and advertising departments.
McFarland said recent studies show that during times of economic expansion, independent hotels tend to do well, a factor that may be leading more hotels to jettison the franchise name and become independent.
“The independent hotels are especially popular among leisure travelers who like having exclusivity and are willing to pay for it,” she said.
Sheridan, the town commissioner who worked to ensure Highland Beach still had a presence in the hotel’s name, agrees that including Delray in the new name will increase recognition of the hotel for those unfamiliar with the area.
“People in different areas of the country have heard of Boca Raton and Delray Beach, but not Highland Beach,” he said.