The art of innkeeping
Since Chris Davison became the general manager and vice president of operations at the Island Inn, every day is a little bit different.
“It’s a smaller place, so we wear many hats,” Davison said.
Since Davison took over seven years ago, he has made many upgrades to the 122-year-old inn, which happens to be the oldest hotel on Sanibel. The property, which sits on 10 acres and has a total of 49 units, has gone through $7 million in renovations since Davison has taken over.
The most recent improvements include building a new housekeeping and maintenance facility, building 12 brand new luxury suites which will be unveiled Jan. 12, 2018 and updating the existing cottages.
“We updated the accommodations to what guests come to expect, and then some. We’ve been very successful. We stay booked year round,” Davison said.
Over the years, the inn’s average occupancy is 96 on any given day. In total, about 40,000 people check in each year – some even come as far as Japan and Australia.
“We’ve hosted the world here,” Davison said. “There’s certain times of the year when you go down to the beach or the pool and hear five different languages being spoken which is awesome.”
In the future, Davison hopes to implement more concierge services like a high-end gift shop and spa services.
Davison moved to the area when he was 13 and attended college at Florida Gulf Coast University, majoring in resort hospitality management. One of the board of directors at the college recommended him for the job at the Island Inn.
Davison said one of the biggest challenges he’s had to overcome is phasing out the different renovations and the day-to-day operations of managing a hotel.
“We’re in phase three of five (of the renovations). Separating those out in the most organized and efficient way has definitely been a challenge and then you have the challenges every day, that’s why I love the business. I don’t like to be bored and I do like to stay on my feet so you never really know what’s going to come at you in the hotel business. We see 40,000 people a year and a lot of things can happen – from wonderful things to unfortunate medical things, we’ve seen it all here and it keeps you on your toes. It’s a challenge, but I like it,” Davison said.
For Davison, one of the most rewarding aspects of managing a hotel is building on what previously existed and his cohesive team.
“For example, after the storm hit, my whole staff showed up. I had folks that weren’t scheduled in here setting up the front desk and putting the photo albums and shells back out. The housekeepers were raking the lawn – for these people, it’s more than a job for them. We look out for each other,” Davison said. “To be part of that, it’s very rewarding.”
In between work, Davison stays very involved with the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, Captains for Clean Water and the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.
“Water quality and preservation of Sanibel’s natural environment is really important to me, personally and the Island Inn. I try to involve myself with organizations that I think are really good message providers for that arena and that educate the public. I think folks that live here or visit very frequently understand how special of an environment this is,” Davison said. “It’s been rewarding to work with the community to put our best foot forward.”