Atlanta native Kevin Fox found his calling accidentally, like many college students of his era. Says Fox: “I needed a business elective to graduate, and I was taking a course called Trade Show Management at Georgia State University. The class had to put on a career fair, and I took my resume and began to seek my fortune. As it turns out, the Portofino Island Resort [in Pensacola Beach] was there looking for interns and hired some 40 college students from coast to coast for the summer. The hospitality industry hadn’t even been on my radar, but the internship changed my path, and my life, forever. We worked hard, made lots of friends, and had a great time. Plus, I found myself, almost unwittingly, on a pretty clear career path.”
During the following Christmas vacation, Kevin Fox received a call from the president of Portofino Island offering him a “real job” to begin after his final semester. “It was late 2009, the economy was in the tank, and I had an exciting job offer at a beach resort. How cool was that?” says Fox.
Then, to make things just a little more challenging, the BP oil spill happened in the Gulf in April of the following year, effectively shutting down beach vacations for a while. Fox did all manner of work on the hospitality side of the resort—tending bar, working in the restaurants, and so on, until eventually rising to food and beverage director. After he was named sales director for the resort, he became more and more intrigued by the real estate component of the overall operation. “The hospitality side was my entry to the far larger vacation real estate arena, both the investment aspect and the short-term rental side,” says Fox.
After working in sales and management within Portofino Island, he began to understand the three components of the vacation real estate equation. “There are people who purchase vacation property strictly for their own enjoyment,” says Fox. “Then there are those who buy for their own use but also to rent to other vacationers. Finally, there are those who get into it strictly for investment purposes. I saw a way to provide services—and an upside—to all three.”
And so Foxy Vacations was born. Fox found an owner who had been transferred out of the Pensacola market and needed a manager for his vacation rental. He also made the decision to offer the separate apartment at his own downtown Pensacola home as a short-term rental. With that small base, he was off and running. “Those two properties got me started,” he says. “Within a short time, I was managing upwards of 50 rentals. I took care of all the details—marketing, cleaning, the whole nine yards. I had relationships with vendors, I promoted local events and attractions to my renters, finding discounts and incentives and special deals, knowing what they were looking for and finding it. I was their personal concierge.”
And then the pandemic happened. Fox’s job, like so many others’, changed radically almost overnight. “I lost more than half of my properties,” he says. “People had to sell them, rent them long-term, or move their own families into them. I was just getting into another niche right at that time; I was marketing yachts as a short-term vacation option. Obviously that went away, too.” His business is steadily returning, and Fox believes he’ll be up to 30 or more properties by the end of 2021.
Fox readily acknowledges the prominent place the services of companies such as Airbnb, VRBO, and other third-party distribution channels provide, and he readily admits he uses them himself. “Airbnb is the 900-pound gorilla, but there’s a place for all of us,” says Fox. He notes, however, that he can provide far more personalized options to his property owners and guests. “It’s real estate and the hospitality industry all in one,” he says. “It chose me, and I love it. I thrive on making people happy and providing new experiences. The best part of my job is opening doors and opening eyes.”
Kevin Fox does his marketing primarily through his website, foxyvacations.com, and through word-of-mouth from satisfied owners and vacationers.