Naples Ritz-Carlton beach resort closing for two summer months for renovation

File/The Ritz Carlton, Naples, will close for approximately 66 days this summer, the first time it has closed for an extended time period for than 28 years, for extensive building-wide rennovations.

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

File/The Ritz Carlton, Naples, will close for approximately 66 days this summer, the first time it has closed for an extended time period for than 28 years, for extensive building-wide rennovations.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton 
 The Terrace.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton The Terrace.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton 
 The Grill Room, at the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton The Grill Room, at the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

— In its more than 27-year history, the iconic Ritz-Carlton, Naples, has rarely closed its doors.

It usually takes a major hurricane.

In an unusual move, the beach-front resort will close for 66 days this summer for what’s described as a “remastering” that will include a complete redo of all of its guest rooms, replacing and upgrading everything from the furniture and decor to the TVs and the wiring for Internet access.

“It’s a complete strip and redo, from top to bottom,” said Bruce Seigel, marketing and sales director for The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples. “We’re really striving to remaster this masterpiece.”

Even the air conditioning hidden behind the walls in every room will be torn out, all in an effort to improve on the guest experience. The renovated rooms will look like luxury beach homes.

The last time the resort closed to guests was in 2005 because of Hurricane Wilma, when there was an evacuation of the beach. Even then, it was shuttered for only a few days, Seigel recalls.

The 450-room resort undergoes a renovation about every eight years. This next one will be the biggest ever, closing the doors to guests on July 25 and reopening on Oct. 1.

“The decision to cease operations for the first time in the resort’s 27-year history is a true testament to our ongoing commitment to product and service excellence,” said Ed Staros, vice president and managing director of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resorts of Naples and one of the original founders of the Ritz-Carlton brand, in a statement. “Our goal was to avoid any guest inconvenience during this timeframe.”

It’s a multimillion-dollar project, one that’s meant in part to ensure the resort keeps its coveted five-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide.

The resort dropped down a notch to four stars in 2012, but regained its five-star status for 2013, which it has received 23 times since opening in December 1985.

The intensive effort to regain a star included posting charts around the resort and setting up a “traffic light” at the employee entrance to let them know where they stood based on the feedback of guests. The goal was to keep the light glowing green.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton 
 The Bar, at the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton The Bar, at the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

“Yes, it is truly unheard of that a property regains the star back within a year,” Seigel said.

The five-star rating was officially announced last week.

“It was a heck of a cheer because our pride was injured, for the fact that we were given a different rating. Everyone here strives to be the best at what we do,” Seigel said.

Part of being the best is to keep the resort fresh and the next renovation will bring it up to the next generation, he said.

“You’re only as good as yesterday’s experience. You have to be better tomorrow,” Seigel said.

Usually, hotels and resorts do renovations around guests in the slower summer months. But the next one will be so disruptive, it wouldn’t be right to keep the resort open because it would lead to unhappy guests, Seigel said.

It’s not just the rooms that will get a makeover. Improvements are planned for three restaurants. Hallways and corridors will get an overhaul and more than 90 windows will be replaced with Category 5 hurricane glass, many of them in the front of the lobby.

The Terrace, a family-style continental restaurant, will get a new glass atrium and will be renamed Terrazza to fit its new Italian theme.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton 
 The Artisans Room at the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

Rendering courtesy of the Ritz Carlton The Artisans Room at the Ritz Carlton, Naples.

The Sushi Bar’s renovation will include an extended balcony offering sunset views. It will be rebranded as simply The Bar and the menu will be revamped to include sushi, small bites and creative cocktails.

The Grill steak house will get a contemporary facelift without touching the popular menu or the dining experience and the Artisans “princess ballroom,” which hosts at least 100 wedding receptions a year, will be brightened to look like “an elegant jewel box.”

Among the companies hired for the remastering are Wimberly Interiors and design agency Blue Plate, both based in New York.

The closing will ensure the renovation runs more smoothly and goes quickly, Seigel said.

Employees have known about the closing for more than a year, but were asked to keep it under wraps. Many will be hired to work for the renovation crews, while others will go to work at the golf resort at Tiburon, 10 minutes away on Vanderbilt Beach Road, which will gain some of the business that would have gone to its sister resort.

Other employees will take long vacations, using up time they’ve been allowed to carry over and borrow against.

“Every employee has a different plan,” Seigel said.

The resort’s roughly 900 employees, who come from 46 countries, will continue to get their company health benefits.

Demand for rooms at the resort has never been better, supporting the owner’s decision to make such a huge investment, Seigel said.

“Our rates during the Easter holiday break start at $949,” he said. “Demand has been incredible.”

The owner of the two Ritz-Carltons in Collier County is Host Hotels and Resorts Inc., the nation’s largest lodging real estate investment trust, or REIT. It’s a publicly traded business.

In March 1985 a half built Ritz-Carlton, Naples started towering over the landscape along the beach in North Naples. Nine months later in December, the Ritz opened its doors to sophisticated travelers becoming a flagship property with AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star designations. Eric Strachan/Staff

Photo by ERIC STRACHAN // Buy this photo

In March 1985 a half built Ritz-Carlton, Naples started towering over the landscape along the beach in North Naples. Nine months later in December, the Ritz opened its doors to sophisticated travelers becoming a flagship property with AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star designations. Eric Strachan/Staff

This will be one of largest renovations undertaken in the Ritz-Carlton portfolio.

The beach-front Ritz is one of the biggest collectors of Collier County’s so-called bed tax, a 4 percent charge on all hotel rooms and other vacation rentals that pays for tourism marketing and beach projects, and supports local museums.

Other hotels and resorts will gain some business that would have gone to the Ritz, however, so all of the business — and tourist taxes — won’t be lost. For example, The Florida Bar will meet at the Waldorf Astoria Naples, but will return to the Ritz in 2014.

“I’m hoping we don’t have an appreciable decline in the tourist tax. It certainly remains to be seen. But it does come at a good time of the year for us,” said Jack Wert, Collier County’s tourism director.

It’s a smart move to close the property when such big changes are planned, he said.

He’s glad to see the owners making such a big investment, which he said points to the strength of the coastal Collier destination.

“It certainly is something that we see a lot of, properties around town who are reinvesting in their facilities as a whole. It’s definitely a good positive sign that they are encouraged by the improvement in the economy and that they are willing to make that investment and I think it’s good for the destination.”

The Ritz golf resort will be next, with a big renovation planned for 2014. It may not have to close.

“That’s the second part of the story,” Seigel said.

© 2013 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 7

Ruskin writes:

Lets try this headline again.

Naples Ritz-Carlton beach resort closing for two months this summer for renovations

light writes:

Yes, the grand old girl is looking shabby. Its certainly time for a full body makeover.

The Ritz Carlton is not the only local hotel that needs a total makeover. Have you been in the Naples Beach Club lately? What a mess and oh so tacky.

Neither of these large hotels has capacity for conventions. Naples badly needs a sparkling new convention center and it would be nice to build it on the vacant lot in front of DaRuMa Japanese Steak House across the srteet from the Ritz Carlton.

Vanderbilt Beach Road can be rebranded as Naples' convention node with all related amenities close together and near the beach. It would stimulate a lot of new development. Why didn't Jack Wert think of that. Who owns him downtown?

SeeFuture writes:

Might also want to go ahead and clean all the dead fish off the nasty "red tide" beach there. It's become The Bacteria Coast.

FiscCon writes:

The "iconic" Ritz-Carlton / Marriott with its postage stamp sized beach that's crowded with people, chairs and ticky tacky rentals. Rip-off city should stay closed. Might as well go over to the Marriott Marco for an expansive beachfront experience, several beachfront dining venues and a warm welcome.

NaplesSparky writes:

The Naples Beach Hotel has ALWAYS been tacky, that's part of its charm. The rooms also cost 1/3rd what they do at the Ritz, with a nicer beach and a golf course you don't have to take a shuttle to.

DeweyCox writes:

But, where will we get cheap beer?

FiscCon writes:

The photo that accompanies this puff piece says it all. Look at the big parking garage that accomodates the actual people in this county and probably more tourists than stay at the Ritz, a convention venue. The Ritz-Carlton's pompous GM and district 2 commish job killer Hiller opposed an attractive beach facility for beachgoers, an improvement that would have promoted tourism and been good for the county... Stay closed and do everyone a favor. The dumb quotes from Jack Wert are about as out-of-the box as that one is capable of... Oh, I hope we don't all suffer with the loss of tourist tax receipts when the Ritz closes in the dead of summer..Spare us the gibberish... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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