The website for Margaritaville greets visitors with a somber message this month. An on-brand aqua blue pop-up hovers over a tranquil beach, and reads: “We all mourn the loss of Jimmy and honor his legacy.”
Click on the “read more” button, and you’ll be taken to a webpage built in honor of Margaritaville founder Jimmy Buffett, who died Sept. 1 at the age of 76.
“On behalf of everyone (who works, visits, or lives) in Margaritaville, we mourn the loss of Jimmy, a true national treasure, and express our heartfelt condolences to his family and everyone around the world who loves him,” the text reads.
In the wake of Buffett’s death, the music icon’s legacy goes beyond the hit songs he made during his lifetime. Buffett leaves behind a sprawling business empire, and that includes Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts, which are currently in the midst of an expansion.
“His original idea for Margaritaville was to expand the opportunity for as many people to experience the lifestyle immortalized in his iconic song as possible,” the online memorial reads.
And even though employees and guests, known as “Parrotheads,” grieve the loss of Buffett, his hotel and resort empire lives on — and is even evolving to meet changing traveler needs.
Mood at the hotels
When news broke earlier this month of Buffett’s death, some fans headed immediately to the best place they knew to celebrate him: their local Margaritaville hotel or resort.
NBC San Diego spoke to those at the newly opened Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, noting that fans “flocked to the hotel” that weekend to celebrate Buffett’s life.
“He’s the reason why we have the lifestyle that we have,” said a Buffett fan, talking through tears to the local news station’s cameras in front of a Margaritaville logo at the resort. “We’re fun loving, we’re caring, we’re kind. We’re all those things that Buffett wanted us to be.”
The New York Post noted similar memorializing happening at Margaritaville Times Square. And on social media, fans posted images of themselves celebrating Buffett’s life at various Margaritaville properties.
One post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, showed the flag at half staff at Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs. Another post on the platform featured photos of a memorial table dedicated to Buffett at an unspecified Margaritaville property.
When reached by phone, a front desk worker at Margaritaville Times Square told Hotel Dive that — despite the public displays of mourning — the resort has not seen an influx of guests.
“We’re normally always sold out,” the staffer said, meaning it’s been “business as usual” for the hotel’s employees in recent weeks. (Though the resort’s owner, Soho Properties, has made headlines for filing for bankruptcy twice since its opening, the company’s vice president said in a court filing that the hotel itself “is on the upswing.”)
However, the hotel has set up a small memorial, and the worker noted more guests raising their glasses to Buffett with toasts in his honor.
A worker at the Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter also told Hotel Dive that the number of hotel guests has not changed.
Margaritaville’s corporate offices, as well as those of the management companies that operate its U.S. resorts, declined to comment about any changes in the wake of Buffett’s death.
The chain, however, is in the midst of further expansion.
The $30 million, 235-room hotel in San Diego opened just last month, marking the brand’s first city-center location on the West Coast.
And despite its association with tropical beaches, Margaritaville is also underway on its first-ever ski resort. The brand’s $70 million redevelopment of the former Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel will play to travelers’ increasing desire for outdoor experiences.
Yet negotiations to build a possible Margaritaville hotel in Riviera Beach, Florida, have been delayed due to Buffett’s death, according to WPTV West Palm Beach.
Douglas Lawson, a city council member for the Florida city, told the station that Buffett himself had been “bullish” on a new Margaritaville anchoring the town’s forthcoming multimillion-dollar marina development. Lawson said Buffett’s passing could slow down — but not derail — negotiations for the new location.
Like other hotels, Margaritaville properties are currently benefiting from pent-up demand that was built up during the pandemic. An annual report from Margaritaville Caribbean published at year-end 2022 noted that 2023 looked “very promising,” and business was “returning to normal and even surpassing some expectations.”
As for the most newly opened hotel in San Diego, representatives of owners Pebblebrook Hotel Trust said in the trust’s second quarter 2023 earnings call that the property will benefit from growing demand in group travel.