The former Resort at Marina Village opened Thursday as the new Westin Cape Coral Resort - the first Westin property in Southwest Florida.
Over the past several months, the resort underwent a renovation that involved equipping the 263 rooms with Westin Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Shower heads, along with replacing materials, like vanities and mirrors.
"All of the kind of brand-standard elements of the Westin brand," David Milus, vice president of operations for Starwood, the company that owns and operates the Westin hotel chain, said. "The signature Westin elements."
Operating supplies and equipment, from hair dryers, to soap and shampoo, have also been brought up to Westin's standards and requirements.
"We did keep the resort open during the transition period," he said.
According to Milus, there are currently 192 Westin Starwood properties located throughout the United States, with a number under development. In about 100 countries across the globe, Starwood has about 1,100 hotels.
The company owns 45 hotels in Florida, of which 11 are Westins.
He noted that Starwood has been looking at Southwest Florida.
"We are a growth company, and we are always looking for opportunities to expand our footprint," Milus said. "This location (the Cape facility) made sense to us and was a part of Florida that we wanted to continue to grow in."
Also as part of the renovation, the fitness center was redone and furnished with state-of-the-art equipment for light fitness, cardio and strength. Within the next year, the 4,000-foot spa will be turned into a Westin Heavenly Spa.
"It's going to be a very upscale resort spa," he said.
It will include everything from massages and facials, to a hydrotherapy room and relaxations rooms. Among the available options will be co-ed treatments.
"I think that will be something that will be very unique," Milus said.
The resort will offer not just the physical signature elements, but also Westin's service attributes. Staffers at the hotel have undergone Westin training classes and will continue to do so over the next several weeks.
"We've retained the majority of the staff that was here," he said.
Future plans for the property include expanding the meeting space and building out the ballroom over the next two years. Milus explained that the main reason is to attract large meetings, conferences and conventions.
The transition from an independent hotel to a large hotel-branded company will have an impact locally. It will provide the resort with more comprehensive reservation and travel agent distribution systems, bringing in more people.
"It should drive benefits for the community at large," he said, adding that the change will increase tax revenue for the area and employment.
"So, we're excited about that," Milus said.
Audie Lewis, with the city's Economic Development Office, agreed.
"Obviously, the Westin name is going to bring international attention to it," he said. "That's an extremely well respected luxury hotel line."
"We fully expect that we'll immediately have occupancy changes and a clientele change as well, because I think it brings in a world-class difference in who's showing up," Lewis said.
With the new faces will come investment and development opportunities.
"We fully expect the Westin name to really help us, to bump us up toward more of that side of Cape Coral being more like Naples and its attractions," he said.
Eric Ashton, general manager for the Westin Cape Coral Resort, said the community has welcomed them with open arms and members of Starwood's reward program are already calling with questions about the new resort.
"We know that there's going to a great growth in terms of business," he said, adding that, "Cape Coral is already a great waterfront community and boating destination."
Tying together the resort and marina, and drawing business and leisure travelers to the area, is expected to have an impact and provide jobs.
"It's just going to continue to have a great influx on the community," Ashton said.
The Westin experience is centered around well being, and is based on six pillars: sleep well, eat well, work well, play well, move well and feel well.
"All of our brand programming is built around those pillars," he said. "We want our guests to leave feeling better than when they arrived."