Historic Plaza Resort hires industry giant Aimbridge Hospitality to manage hotel

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Jonathan Abraham Eid, Vienna Capital’s CEO, talks about improving Daytona’s Seabreeze Blvd

Jonathan Abraham Eid, Vienna Capital’s CEO, welcomes residents, merchants and local leaders to a brainstorming session on Daytona’s Seabreeze Boulevard.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

DAYTONA BEACH — One of the world’s leading hotel management companies has been hired to take over operation of The Plaza Resort & Spa by the hotel’s new owner, Los Angeles-based Vienna Capital.

Based in Plano, Texas, industry giant Aimbridge Hospitality boasts a portfolio of more than 1,500 branded and independent properties in 49 states and 22 countries. Since launching with just eight properties in 2003, Aimbridge has built its reputation on an ability to turn around under-performing hotels, according to industry experts.

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Aimbridge executives have been at The Plaza this week for a series of meetings with the hotel’s leadership and staff, said Duane Winjum, the hotel’s general manager. Aimbridge will officially take over operation of the hotel on April 12, said Winjum, who started as general manager in January and will remain in that post.

“We’re now working with a company that has tremendous resources available to us in every facet of our operation, as well as the ability to bring to the table various options as far as the branding of the hotel,” Winjum said. “It’s really both of those pieces.”

‘Untapped potential’

The Aimbridge addition reflects Vienna Capital’s commitment to fulfilling the potential of the 323-room property, one of the iconic landmarks on the beachside, said Jonathan Abraham Eid, Vienna Capital CEO.

“It’s the biggest management company in the world right now,” Eid said. “The resources are really unlimited and there’s untapped potential for the area, as well.”

Aimbridge replaces the hotel’s previous management company, North Carolina-based Boykin Management Co., which had been in that role for nearly a decade.

“They have been a good partner in the short-term, since we acquired the hotel,” Eid said. “Now, we’re looking to move into the future. We’ve retained Aimbridge knowing that they are the biggest in the industry and they offer some insights and more opportunities for marketing and strengthening the potential for the property moving forward.”

Investment group Vienna Capital paid at least $8.3 million last fall to acquire the historic oceanfront hotel/condominium resort at 600 N. Atlantic Ave. in Daytona Beach, according to Volusia County property records.

Almost immediately, the company expressed an interest in uplifting both the hotel and the appeal of the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses along North Atlantic Avenue and Seabreeze Boulevard.

Earlier this month, the hotel hosted a brainstorming meeting that attracted roughly 100 local residents, business owners and elected officials offering ideas to help improve Seabreeze Boulevard.

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The seed for that event was planted in December, when Eid took a walking tour to talk with Seabreeze business owners about ways to improve the boulevard. He was joined by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.

Davis called the Aimbridge news “a grand slam home run” for the hotel.

“It’s a great story for The Plaza, for Daytona Beach and for Volusia County,” Davis said. “This is a management company that can only bring better techniques, better resources, better marketing and better advertising. I’m thrilled.”

Both Eid and Winjum said that all options are on the table at the moment in terms of potential to connect the hotel with a national or internationally known brand or to move forward with other ideas.

“We’re keeping all avenues open at this stage,” Eid said. “We haven’t made any decision if the property would stay independent or be branded in the future. It’s a great property with a lot of history and a lot of value as it currently stands.

“Our vision is for it to become a lifestyle property in Daytona Beach, whether it’s branded or independent — a place that entertains families, couples, conventions, all sorts of visitors.“

An Aimbridge representative couldn’t be reached for comment on the company’s role.

Improve ‘with a nod toward its history’

The hotel’s historic significance is reflected in the fact that it’s Daytona Beach’s oldest continuously operating hotel, dating back to 1911. The hotel’s signature clock tower is one of the first things motorists see when they drive over the Seabreeze Bridge heading towards the ocean.

Looking back further, the property’s roots extend to 1895 when Daytona Beach businessman Charles Ballough built an oceanfront casino resort on the site called Hotel Clarendon. The hotel burned down in 1909 and was rebuilt two years later.

The section of beach behind The Plaza Resort is where legendary race car driver Sir Malcolm Campbell set a new world land speed record in 1928.

In February, Winjum said that preserving that history will be an essential part of any plans to refresh the hotel by adding 21st century touches in technology and amenities. “Elements of the hotel will become more contemporary, with a nod toward its history,” he said at the time.

Aimbridge specializes in tackling such projects, said Scott Smith, a hospitality professor and director of graduate studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

“They go in and take properties that aren’t working and either make it happen or tell the owners, ‘Here’s what you need to do to turn it around and make it happen,’” said Smith, who worked as director of convention services in the early 1990s at the Daytona Marriott, the hotel that is now the 744-room Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort. “If I had to pick a company to go to, they would be top of my list to tell me, ‘Hey, here’s what needs to be done.’”

Smith said that the time is right to invest in improving hotel properties.

“People have been pent-up because of COVID and they just want to get out and vacation,” he said. “Right now is the time, if you’re going to make changes, to go in and do it. The demand is through the roof, especially for Florida.”

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