Earlier this year, Visit Orlando announced that more than 62 million people visited the area in 2014, resulting in a record 32 million hotel room nights. From Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando, attractions and hotels along International Drive and all those in between, add up to roughly 119,000 hotel rooms across the region.
Orlando, It’s the Place to Be
Many properties plan renovations to not only seek a competitive edge, but also to enhance the guest’s experience and provide a reason for visitors to return year after year. As Orlando continues to expand and add new options for attractions, entertainment and dining, visitors will be attracted to this world-class destination and Orlando’s tourism community will continue to invest in Central Florida.
In the lodging market alone, enhancements and expansions provide more appealing options for visitors, and as a result, room rate increases can be justified and more bed tax collected.
Investments with Huge Returns
Scheduled to open in summer 2016, Universal Orlando will add the Caribbean-inspired Loews Sapphire Falls Resort to its list of on-site accommodations. This is Universal Orlando’s fifth hotel, which will add 1,000 rooms and 131,000 square feet of meeting space to its portfolio.
“Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will be every bit as distinctive as the other four on-site hotels and will offer a new option to families looking for a truly special Orlando vacation,” says Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels & Resorts.
In the last two years, Universal Orlando also added the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and completed a combined $21 million renovation at the Hard Rock Hotel and the Loews
Portofino Bay Hotel.
Since announcing its plans for the re-imagineering of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, Disney has been working around the clock to expand and develop this area of Walt Disney World into a waterfront district for shopping, unique dining and entertainment. By the time it is complete in 2016, the number of shops and restaurants currently found at Downtown Disney will double.
“Over the past few months we have opened several new dining and retail locations, which have quickly become the top producers in their chains. This type of momentum builds on the historical strength of the Downtown Disney area and its popularity with our guests from around the world as it evolves into Disney Springs,” said George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort.
Making Memorable Experiences
Orlando-based Westgate Resorts planned to update four local properties this year.
Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa off Turkey Lake Road will add a new retail village, banquet and meeting space, and parking garage. Westgate Towers Resort will also get a new water park.
“Our Orlando resorts have more than one million repeat guests each year. Part of the reason for this is because we invest heavily in renovations and expansion. Whether that means upgrading our villas, adding new amenities or adding more activities for their families to enjoy, it is important to give our guests something new to look forward to with each return visit,” said David Siegel, president and CEO, Westgate Resorts.
Merlin Entertainments transformed the former Mercado Shopping Center on International Drive into I-Drive 360, Orlando’s new $200 million entertainment destination. I-Drive 360 is home to The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Orlando.
“We [Merlin Entertainments] believe that this is an exceptional group of attractions, which will not only provide three quite different new experiences for visitors, but also together add an exciting new dimension to what is already available in the region,” said Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments.
From the desk of George Aguel, President & CEO of Visit Orlando
One of the factors that differentiates Orlando from other destinations is its unique ability to constantly evolve and offer new experiences to visitors. It’s our “secret sauce,” if you will.
Think about it. When travelers choose to go to a place known for its natural splendor or historic architecture, they don’t want to show up to find that what they came to see is no longer there.
That’s why so many of our guests choose to create memories in our destination. They know that the millions of visitors who came before them couldn’t have been wrong. With popularity, comes assurance. Surely, Orlando must be special if all my friends and family have been there.
As the public and private sectors continue to invest in our tourism infrastructure, that commitment to tourism gets noticed. Past guests recall what a great time they had in Orlando and are motivated to return by the news of a new attraction, new show or new resort hotel.
Throughout our visitors’ relationship with Orlando, we consistently see how memorable experiences lead to loyalty and first-timers transform into loyal fans. Simply put, new experiences and reimagined offerings drive interest and excitement in visiting Central Florida.
Amazingly, as much as we’ve grown in the last 45 years, there’s no stopping on the horizon. In fact, what you do see when you look across our tourism district is construction… and the creation of new reasons for our visitors to come to Orlando and additional benefits for our residents.