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Lutgert College of Business in the News

This is the video, photo, and text from a story in the Fort Myers News-Press of April 28, 2013

GM breathes new life into historical Sanibel Island resort
Written by Andrea Rumbaugh
Apr 28

Island Inn, which opened on Sanibel Island in 1895, offers visitors both history and modern amenities. Chris Davison was hired in June of 2010 as a change agent for the inn. And since being hired, he has increased its occupancy and gross revenue.

About the company

Island Inn

  • Location: 3111 W. Gulf Drive on Sanibel Island
  • Contact: 472-1561
  • Website:

  • Island Inn offers vacationers a mixture of long-standing history and modern amenities - all to the backdrop of a beautiful Sanibel Island beach.

    The inn was established in 1895 as the home of Will and Harriet Matthews and their four children. After entertaining many friends and family, the Matthews decided to turn their home into a boarding house and later Island Inn.

    The Matthews family ran the inn until the late 1950s, and then - to preserve the property - offered it to a group of long-time guests who became the owners and shareholders. There are currently 157 shareholders.

    "The owners of the hotel are the legacies and shareholders that bought the hotel from the Matthews back then," said Chris Davison, general manager and vice president of operations for Island Inn. "So it's really held its history."

    Island Inn sits on 10 acres of property with 550 feet of beach. It has 42 hotel rooms and seven cottages - giving the area a quiet appeal.

    It also has two tennis courts, a heated pool, shuffle board, horseshoes and rentals for bicycles, kayaks and paddleboards. Some of its modern amenities include free WiFi, flat screen TVs and docking stations for iPods and iPhones.

    "We have some competitive advantages, which are our history, our extreme low density and our unparalleled beach proximity," Davison said. "But we also have the modern accommodations and amenities that today's travelers have come to expect."

    But the inn went through a period of financial troubles leading up to the middle of 2010. Island Inn had rested on its laurels - with no defined vision, goals or mission statement, Davison said. It needed a change agent, so the board of directors sought help from FGCU School of Resort and Hospitality Management.

    "The inn was kind of at its 11th hour and contemplating either bankruptcy or an orderly shutdown," Davison said. "So it kind of had hit almost rock bottom, I would say. Since then we've been able to make some really great strides."

    Davison, who the school recommended, came on board in June of 2010. He helped increase the inn's revenues from about $1.7 million in fiscal year 2009-2010 to $3.3 million in fiscal year 2012-2013 ending May 31. This is a growth of 101 percent.

    Davison said he helped improve the inn's finances by identifying and embracing its historical roots, its beachfront location and its relatively few rooms compared to beach space. He also used technology to improve the inn's website and add a live beach cam. And he increased the inn's relationship with third-party organizations like Hillgate Communications, which handles the inn's marketing and public relations.

    But most importantly, he listened to the guests and employees.

    "I guess the biggest change would be focusing in on guest feedback, listening to guests and then going out and modifying our accommodations, our amenities and our guest services based on what the guests tell us," he said.

    Stephanie Fairlie, a 43-year-old resident of Lakeville, Minn., stayed at Island Inn during her family's first trip to Sanibel Island.

    "I would definitely want to come back to the inn," she said.

    And she said Davison was very friendly. He helped the family find a box to ship items home - like the excess of seashells that wouldn't fit in their suitcase.

    Davison said it's common for the inn's employees to go out of their way to help guests. In fact, meeting these vacationers is one of Davison's favorite things about the job. His proximity to the water doesn't hurt, either.

    "Being able to leave work and be on my boat, with a rod in my hand in 15 minutes, is a really good advantage too," he said.

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