Water sport enthusiasts turn passion into hotel marketing niche

Press Release (ePRNews.com) - FORT MYERS, Fla. - Feb 13, 2017 - When it comes to experiencing paradise while on vacation, whether for a weekend or a lengthy stay, there are plenty of hotels at Fort Myers Beach ready to sell a taste of the island life. But at the Best Western Plus Beach Resort Hotel, the atmosphere goes beyond Coco the Amazon parrot charming guests by chattering in the lobby decorated in tropical tiki themes.

The hotel’s laidback feel is authentic because members of the family that run the resort actually live the water sports lifestyle. By staying at the Best Western, guests have the chance to connect with the stand-up paddleboard and scuba diving cultures that general manager Jeff Malbon and managing general partner Tim Malbon live, at least during the hours when they aren’t providing the customer service that has won them numerous hospitality awards.

“We can point guests in the right direction – the better dive shops, the best areas, the guides to go fishing and diving with – because we’re actively involved in it,” Tim Malbon said.

Having access to knowledge from locals is invaluable, whether a guest is new to water sports or just new to pursuing them in Southwest Florida, providing value beyond booking a hotel room. As covered by the Fox Sports Sun network show “Scuba Nation,” Tim Malbon was among the first scuba divers on a wreckage salvage mission of a missing B-26 bomber that had crashed off the coast of Lee County during WWII training exercises. Initially, the team thought it had discovered a different B-26, one rumored to have crashed during the Cuban Revolution while on its way to Tampa with $200 million in gold and artifacts from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and they made the correct identification while attempting what they thought would be a salvage operation for the missing treasure.

As stand-up paddleboarders (SUP), the pair, who are first cousins, helped start the Battle of the Blueway paddleboard races that support Special Olympics, and their hotel serves as a host property for some events of the local SWFL SUP Club.

“The diving, when you get a good day, is excellent, especially if you’re spearfishing,” Tim said. “We have some excellent wrecks that are out there. The Mohawk is a beautiful dive. We have blue holes, ledges, and there’s artificial reefs.

“The paddleboarding on the Gulf of Mexico is great because the majority of the time we don’t have big waves,” Tim continued. “You can paddle on the beach, and there’s mangrove trails. It’s great for beginners to advanced.”

“And if there’s ever a wave, that’s fun, too,” Jeff Malbon added, with a smile.

Jeff’s enthusiasm for waves comes from the fact that the cousins grew up surfing at Virginia Beach before they moved to Fort Myers Beach in the early ’90s to help their fathers run the Best Western.

“We’ve always lived on the coast,” Tim said. “Coming from a surfing background – and also fishing and spearfishing and anything to do on the water – it was a natural fit for us, other than the lack of surf in the Gulf of Mexico. We kind of transferred from surfing to paddleboarding.”

The Malbons actively market their hotel to scuba and paddleboard enthusiasts. Through Tim’s leadership position on the chain’s cooperative advertising committee, they are now trying to help other Best Westerns in Florida tap into the water sports market through advertising in sport-specific media.

“We’re just trying to get the brand to be associated with paddleboarding because nobody else is going after it, but it’s the fastest-growing water sport right now,” Tim said. “It’s a unique market because everybody can do it from any age. Anywhere you go in Florida, there’s somewhere to go paddleboarding – from springs to rivers to East Coast to West Coast – there’s somewhere to put a board in the water and go for a paddle.”

For water sport enthusiasts who drive down with their own gear, the hotel can provide a limited amount of storage. For guests who fly in without gear, or for people who have always wanted to try sports such as paddleboarding but who have never gotten the chance, the Malbons have partnered with Holiday Water Sports to provide equipment rentals right at the hotel’s beach. Guests may rent paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis and parasailing equipment without ever leaving the property, and they can arrange for lessons as well.

“Guests don’t need a car,” Jeff said. “It’s walking distance to restaurants, shops and everything.”

“We call it ‘close enough but far away,'” Tim said. “It’s close enough to walk to everything, but far enough that we don’t have the giant crowds out on the beach. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere here at the property. We want to be known as the property on Fort Myers Beach that the paddleboarders would come to and talk about.”


Source : Best Western Plus Beach Resort

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