Despite the economy and despite the oil spill, Innisfree Hotels continues to build. They’re creating jobs and fueling the economy with projects new and old, and that’s why they’re one of our 12 Game Changers.
Most recently, the hotel development and management company completed work on the Pensacola Beach Holiday Inn, a $60 million project that’s added 206 guest rooms and dozens of jobs in our community.
“That was a big deal,” says Innisfree Hotels Founder and CEO Julian MacQueen. “It was probably the largest project in Escambia County, certainly our largest private development in Escambia County, in the last couple of years.”
MacQueen also points to the development of the Pensacola Beach Hilton, another Innisfree property, as a boon to the local economy.
“It was the first full-service, 4-star hotel Pensacola Beach has ever had. With the arrival of that product, we brought Pensacola Beach into a whole new market.”
New convention and meeting centers opened Pensacola Beach to the business set. And by bringing a new class of guests to the area, Innisfree was able to aid the beach hotel economy as a whole.
“We managed to increase the average rate there probably by about 30 percent,” says MacQueen. “The hotels can hire more people and pay them higher salaries.”
As successful as Innisfree’s beachfront properties have been, the oil spill crisis nearly sent them back to square one.
“It effectively terminated our businesses on the beach, with no real prediction of what the future might bring.”
A prevalent fatalist attitude towards the beach didn’t help matters.
“People thought that when this oil finally hit the beach it would permanently damage it. Anyone that would want to come to the beach…would just find a different place to go.”
Though the beach ecosystem was largely able to bounce back, MacQueen says that the damage had already been done.
“We lost a tremendous amount of business to the East Coast. We’re still waiting for those people to return. It’s an uphill battle to try and get them back.”
But Innisfree’s properties and projects aren’t limited to the beach. They’re also developing the new property at Airport Boulevard and 12th Avenue.
“What we’re going to come in there and do is a very high level multi-use development, anchored by a Hyatt Place hotel,” says MacQueen.
Innisfree also plans on building restaurants, shops and office buildings on the property.
“It will be a major change in how people perceive Pensacola. It’s the last thing that they see when they go back home, and it’s the first thing they see when they arrive.”
“It will go from a back rental car parking lot to something we can all be proud of,” says MacQueen.
Pride isn’t the only motivator for the construction, however. MacQueen says that the development will help Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport be more competitive.
“The property will create an income stream of a minimum of $450,000 a year through lease income. That income comes directly off of what the airlines have to pay to the airport.”
For the future, MacQueen says Innisfree is looking forward—and eastward.
“We would like to expand our reach to the East…take the Innisfree brand and move it down the beach. We’re looking at some opportunities of some under-managed property east of us.”
Innisfree Hotels, Inc.
113 Bay Bridge Drive, Gulf Breeze