U.S.-Chinese summit a boon for Palm Beach hotels

4:56 p.m Friday, April 7, 2017 Nation & World
People take photos outside the Eau Palm Beach in Manalapan on Wednesday. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

A number of Palm Beach County hotels and tourism hot spots are basking in the international spotlight following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day summit with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

An international gaggle of news media descended on Palm Beach County this week to cover the meeting — the first face-to-face encounter between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies.

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In its news coverage of the meeting, state-run Chinese media described Palm Beach as a “little gem floating on the turquoise waters.” The Xinhua news service posted pictures from The Breakers and Brazilian Court, and its reporters spent time visiting both the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, which has an extensive collection of Chinese artwork, and the Chinese garden at the Palm Beach’s the Society of the Four Arts.

In its story about Palm Beach, Xinhua offered this description of the legendary beachfront town:

“Stretching 16 miles (26 km) from north to south, the island of Palm Beach is connected with the rest of Palm Beach County by three bridges. Looking from above, it is like a little gem floating on the turquoise waters. And it hangs on to its past glory. Founded as a resort escape for the elites back in the late 1800s, the island saw a growing convergence of wealthy people in the 1910s and 1920s due to its warm winter.”

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Officials with Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s tourism marketing arm, said they were contacted by at least a dozen news outlets interested in learning about the destination. Meanwhile, the county’s Film and Television commission fielded at least eight requests from both U.S. and international news groups looking for help with their coverage.

“You can’t buy this type of visibility to the world in advertising,” said Glenn Jergensen, executive director of the county’s Tourist Development Council.

While the Chinese president stayed at the beachfront Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa in Manalapan, the White House press pool gathered at the nearby oceanfront Tideline Resort and Spa in Palm Beach.

The 134-room Tideline, owned by Palm Beach billionaire developer Jeff Greene, found itself in the spotlight Thursday night after Trump’s decision to fire missiles at a Syrian air base in response to Bashar al-Assad‘s use of chemical weapons.

White House officials spoke to reporters who were staying at the boutique property, landing the resort’s name and image in news stories and social media feeds around the world.

Greene said he was watching a newscast Thursday night when his 7-year-old son saw the resort pop up on the television screen.

Greene agrees the exposure is good for the county’s tourism industry, adding that the coverage will help the county compete against other beachfront destinations across the state.

“It is sort of bringing us up several notches in comparison to the other big cities in Florida,” Greene said. “We were always a second-tier size city…It just elevates our stature.”

It isn’t only beachfront hotels that are getting publicity from this week’s summit.

Rick Netzel, director of sales and marketing at the Best Western Palm Beach Lakes Inn in West Palm Beach, said three Chinese media crews stayed at the hotel to cover the Chinese president’s visit.

“Two of the news agencies filmed a spot in our courtyard,” Netzel said.

The nearly 50-year-old hotel located across the street from the Palm Beach Outlets is full of old Florida charm, featuring a tropical courtyard surrounding its pool.

“If you want to really show Florida,” Netzel said, “we are true Florida.”

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