Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing at JW Marriott Marco Island, is responsible for all top-line revenue results and demand generation for the entire resort, in addition to spearheading the resort’s groundbreaking modernizations. She’s been with Marriott since 2000 [she began her career as an intern back when it was the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort] and is now in what she calls her third “tour of duty.” Cox says, “I suppose I keep coming back because it’s home.”
In November 2018, following a three-year $320-million transformation, the JW Marriott Marco Island opened Lanai Tower (doubling the resort’s function space); launched Marriott’s first Paradise by Sirene, an adult’s only sector of the new tower; and 10K Alley, a virtual entertainment center. Cox explains the importance of thinking outside the box, as well as the victories and struggles involved with expanding a resort with new technological advances.
What inspired you to get into the hospitality industry?
When I was a junior in college, a valued faculty advisor suggested finding a large hotel and working behind the front desk to learn how to read and react to people. I knew exactly what hotel I wanted to work at—the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, which is now JW! I was instantly hooked on the industry and never looked back
How do you stay on top of trends in the industry?
I’m definitely a lifelong learner. Always wanting to be one step ahead is in my DNA, so I certainly apply that to my professional life. I read a lot—I follow a variety of blogs and vlogs, industry magazines and marketing journals across a variety of disciplines. And perhaps most important, I spend time with our guests—I talk to meeting planners, interact with convention attendees and socialize with our vacationers. This provides me a great opportunity to find out what’s driving their intent to purchase within the hospitality industry.
What are some things that set the JW Marriott Marco Island apart from other properties you’ve worked at?
It's the ultimate resort. The JW Marriott Marco Island is our only domestic resort that owns and operates its own beach, two golf courses and spa. Combine that with more 14 restaurants and the most state-of-the-art oceanfront function space in the country and you’ve got quite an offering. But what makes the JW Marriott Marco Island truly unique is its associates. They are the most passionate, dedicated group of individuals I’ve ever worked with.
How long did the recent renovation/transformation take and what are some successes and struggles with launching a new tower?
In terms of vision and planning, this project was a decade in the making. But in terms of actual construction, we kicked off our project with a 90-day closure of the resort in summer 2015. In my experience, there are almost always hidden challenges in any project of this size and scope—ours was definitely weather. That being said, I call it a success that every single one of our customers has told me this resort was worth the wait. Every single aspect of the project is in some way better than the renderings and pictures we originally envisioned. We’re offering our guests more than we ever dreamed or imagined, and that is a privilege.
The new Lanai Tower features several firsts for the JW brand. What need did you see behind launching these amenities and do you plan on launching them at other JW Marriott resorts?
That’s another thing that makes the JW Marriott Marco Island so unique. 10K Alley was originally supposed to be a 12,000-sq.-ft. storage room that we didn’t really need, but the steel beams that run through the space holding up our Paradise by Sirene room collection above were limiting—they wouldn’t allow the space to be used for event space or guest rooms. That’s how we began ideating about what could work in such an industrial space, and 10K Alley was born! It’s been amazing to see guests respond to this space. No one can believe they are still in a resort. Paradise by Sirene is a great example of being in front of a trend. This collection allows for a new experience curated exclusively for adults in an intimate, boutique-style resort, hidden within our luxury resort. While the rooms are stunning, the breakfast experience, private beach with butler and rooftop pool with valet service are what our guests find most compelling. It speaks to the trend of travel being much more than a guest room.
What is the “Island-Wide” event concept and how can groups utilize it?
Island-Wide meetings include 1,200 peak guest rooms and 150,000 square feet of function space. We utilize the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, the Marco Beach Ocean Resort and the Marco Island Hilton Beach Resort in concert with one another. This play on a “citywide” concept allows a group to literally own an island. We connect the three resorts via the beach with sand logos of your organization, and then provide open-air trolley service streetside for anyone who prefers to ride versus walk the beach. It’s a brand-new kind of meeting, and a fabulous option for larger conventions.