The GOP is headed to Tampa, meeting up for rah-rah sessions and then formally picking Mitt Romney as their nominee to run for the office of president of the United States. So where are all those VIPs and delegates staying?
When a city gets $50 million dollars from the Republican National Convention just to pay for security, you know that hosting their convention is going to be a tad disruptive. It’s boomtime for any hotel near the convention center and Tampa Bay Times Forum. It’s also bound to be a bit trying: full occupancy, demanding guests, and lots of cameras around—not to mention the security challenges and potential protestors. All have needed to beef up their bandwidth to deal with the Wi-Fi demands and the big cellular carriers have added capacity as well. Gotta tweet out those speech soundbites!
The natural first question is, “Where’s Mitt Romney staying?” I had presumed it would be the Tampa Marriott Waterside. After all, Marriott is an all-American hotel chain that’s a staid, safe bet, valuing predictability over personality. Here’s what really made me think it would be there though: there’s a marina up front where all his relatives could dock their private yachts.
I found out that I was right. Former governor Romney and his family will be occupying the Presidential Suite and the Governor’s Suite. A bit of intentional symbolism there perhaps? The Tampa Waterside Marriott has 719 rooms and is the largest in the area, but the candidate will have plenty of friends around: the whole Massachussetts delegation will be staying there as well.
A gaggle of other power brokers and speech givers will certainly be at the Westin Tampa Harbour Island, which is a short walk across a bridge to the festivities and speeches. Most rooms have great views of the water and downtown, plus the outdoor pool by the water gives it a nice resort feel. Starwood points, “Heavenly beds,” and great bathrooms will certainly draw some discerning travelers. Check it out here: Westin Tampa Harbour Island. Check rates later at Priceline or Hotels.com.
Embassy Suites Tampa is about as close as you can get to the Tampa Convention center without being on the property. This hotel has its own walkway over to the center, so late-sleeping delegates (or round-the-clock press) will certainly appreciate the proximity.
This would be a good place for those who are fiscal conservatives rather than social conservatives: Embassy Suites has a complimentary happy hour. See details here, book it at that link or at Hotels.com.
For those red state suburbanites who could use a little more exercise, Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel is less than a ten-minute stroll away. It’s family-friendly and pet-friendly too. The Hilton Tampa is in the same area and both of these are close to the art museum, children’s museum, and a great riverside playground.
The “work hard, play hard” crowd will probably be taking advantage of the cool Tampa Streetcar system and staying in Ybor City instead. This is Tampa’s prime nightlife district, with blocks of bars, dance clubs, restaurants, and a brewpub—all in a historic zone once occupied by cigar rolling factories employing Cuban immigrants. There’s a Hampton Inn & Suites in Ybor and a Hilton Garden Inn.
Amazingly, there are still a few empty Tampa hotel rooms left to book a week before the convention, but not at any of these places. Plus you’ll pay a highly inflated fortune to snag what’s left. Feel like paying $280 a night at a Day’s Inn? Or $224 for a La Quinta 10 miles away? I didn’t think so. Come visit Tampa, Clearwater Beach, and St. Petersburg Beach when things are back to normal. Tampa Bay is normally a great value for lodging. And prettier without all the fences and barricades.
Tampa resident Tim Leffel is author of four travel books, including Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and is frequently quoted in the media as a value travel destinations expert. All photos by Leffel except the suite, which is courtesy of Marriott.