SunStream Hotels & Resorts boasts four people who’ve been with the company from the time it bought its first holding, Pointe Estero Beach Resort on Fort Myers Beach, 25 years ago.
SunStream Hotels & Resorts is marking its 25th year, and going full-throttle, as the owner-operator of diverse-but-upscale vacation properties along Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast.
The privately owned company started when a group of investors from Minnesota bought a Fort Myers Beach resort condominium complex that was struggling financially.
It cut its teeth on condominium resort management, and quickly established itself as one of Florida’s first operators of condo hotels.
In the latter, accommodations are individually owned, but the management company provides services to guests comparable to that of a hotel.
Along the way, SunStream added a full-service real estate office and a time share division.
Its resort properties vary in size and ambience, and include the AAA four-diamond-rated Bellasera Hotel in downtown Naples, the high-rise DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa on Fort Myers Beach and Port of the Island Resort in the heart of the Everglades. Company operations also include resort-related spas, restaurants and lounges.
“With the economy fluctuating, diversity of our portfolio has kept us solid and stable over the last 25 years,” said Mary Anne Baker. She’s SunStream’s vice president of hospitality.
A lot has changed since the company founders entered the local market by purchasing Pointe Estero on Fort Myers Beach.
Baker remembers “using a typewriter, a cash box – and sticking colored tape on a chart” to keep track of guest bookings there, when she was hired as general manager. These days, SunStream uses state-of-the-art digital technology.
“One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of our people,” Baker said. ” A lot of them have been with us 10, 15, 20 years.”
Baker herself is a 25-year SunStream employee. Three others also date to the beginning: David Lawrence, president and company partner; Monica Flowers Crews, director of corporate operations; and Robert Swanson, a partner in the business.
SunStream “may have been a step ahead of their time in branching out,” said Roxie Smith, longtime Beach businesswoman and former owner of the Pink Shell resort on Fort Myers Beach.
The path to growth wasn’t always smooth, Smith noted. In the early 1990s, a Lee County Commission vote ultimately paved the way for SunStream’s construction of a 16-story DiamondHead resort, despite widespread opposition from Fort Myers Beach residents.
Smith wasn’t part of the fight, but noted many people thought commissioners hadn’t listened to them on the DiamondHead issue. That sentiment became a major catalyst for Beach incorporation.
As for SunStream: “They’ve been a wonderful addition to this community, and very generous in their support of their community,” Smith said.
SunStream’s diverse collection of resort properties gives it many price points to offer guests, Baker noted. Company-wide, average daily rates range from about $100-$500 a night during local tourism’s high season – which typically ends around Easter – to $50-$400 a night in the slower months of late summer and autumn.
The array of properties also means the company’s 450 employees have “opportunities to advance from within,” Baker said.
Baker added that SunStream “had a very strong season. We were glad to see people out traveling, and spending.”
She didn’t rule out future acquisitions.
“There are other things on the fire,” she said, “but nothing to talk about at this time.”
“I think there’s pent-up demand for everything – whether it’s travel or real estate,” Baker said. “If it’s priced right, people will purchase.”