During the next two years, more than 4,000 rooms and 434,000 square feet of new meeting space will become available as new Orlando convention hotel projects open. This year, Hilton debuts two major convention properties in Orlando — a 1,400-room hotel linked to the Orange County Convention Center, and a 1,000-room resort hotel adjacent to Walt Disney World Resort. Recently opened near the OCCC are the 315-room Westin Imagine Orlando and the 144-suite Pointe Orlando Resort, while the Peabody Orlando is undergoing a massive expansion.
Walt Disney World; Universal Studios, Florida; and SeaWorld Orlando are all introducing new attractions this year. The dining scene continues to expand as well, with three new restaurants: Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar at The Pointe, with private event availability for groups of up to 1,000; Ocean Prime on Sand Lake Road, with live piano music; and T-Rex, A Prehistoric Family Dining Adventure at Downtown Disney, a 600-seat interactive dining experience.
But there are definitely signs that the down economy is hitting central Florida hard, resulting in a drop in tourist tax revenues. At press time, the opening of the city's new downtown performing arts center is in danger of being pushed back from its announced 2011 opening. On schedule for an October 2010 opening, however, is the $480 million, 20,000-seat special-events center on Church Street, just west of downtown. The complex will include a 31,000-square-foot arena floor, five banquet rooms, a conference room, and an outdoor patio.
In Daytona Beach, 45 miles east of Orlando, a $76 million expansion of the Ocean Center convention complex has been completed. The Center now offers 452,491 square feet of space.
And in Tampa, the 60,000-square-foot Tampa Bay History Center debuted in January, and the 66,000-square-foot Tampa Museum of Art will open in the fall.
Slated to open in October at Bonnet Creek is the largest development in Hilton Hotels' history, consisting of the 497-room Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the 1,000-room Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. The Waldorf Astoria will have 28,000 square feet of meeting space. Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek will have 122,000 square feet of meeting space and Bonnet Creek Island, an outdoor venue surrounded by a lagoon on three sides. Both properties will share meeting space and an on-site Rees Jones-designed championship golf course.
Disney has announced plans for a luxury destination resort anchored by a 445-room hotel along the northeast border of its property. Construction is expected to begin this year.
Scheduled to open this fall at Disney's Contemporary Resort is a 15-story tower that will house 295 two-bedroom villas complementing the resort's 656 rooms and suites and 115,000-square-foot convention center. The expansion caps off a three-year transformation of the resort.
The 750-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Lake Buena Vista recently started a comprehensive $65 million renovation of all guest rooms, public areas, and restaurants, with anticipated completion in December 2009.
Opening in August is the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando Hotel at Orange County Convention Center. Its 200,000 square feet of meeting space includes the 50,000-square-foot Orlando Ballroom and 30,000-square-foot Orange Ballroom, 21 meeting rooms, and nine boardrooms. The hotel will link to the 2.1 million-square-foot convention center via a pedestrian skybridge.
The 323-room Holiday Inn in Walt Disney World Resort, with 11,000 square feet of meeting space, recently completed a propertywide, $25 million enhancement program.
Rosen Hotels & Resorts plans a $100 million-to-$200 million expansion and renovation program designed to enhance six of its seven hotels within the next seven years (all except Shingle Creek).
Opened in November, the 155-room Venturella Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista includes 6,500 square feet of meeting space, nine meeting rooms, a business center, a spa, and fitness center.
Slated for completion in fall 2010 is an expansion at the 891-room Peabody Orlando that includes the addition of a 31-story tower with 750 guest rooms and 145,000 square feet of meeting space. On completion, the hotel will offer 1,641 rooms and 210,000 square feet of meeting space.
Opened in January is the 400-room Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel & Spa Bonnet Creek Resort, adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort. It has meeting space for up to 300 attendees, a 14,000-square-foot spa, and an 18-hole Rees Jones golf course.
The 400-unit Ginn Reunion Resort recently debuted a new outdoor group venue, a 5,000-square-foot tiled patio than can accommodate up to 300 guests.
Icon Celebration, a 441-unit condo/hotel is expected to open in the town of Celebration in late 2010 with 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
Opened in late 2008, the 240-unit Mona Lisa Suite Hotel, in the town of Celebration, features one- and two-bedroom accommodations and 5,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 45-seat Da Vinci Meeting and Boardroom.
In December, the 717-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina completed a $12 million renovation of 681 guest rooms and 36 suites.
The new 255-room Westin Tampa Bay Airport Hotel offers 6,800 square feet of meeting space.
Slated to open this spring is the 221-room Crowne Plaza Tampa Westshore, with 9,000 square feet of meeting space.
In St. Cloud, Florida Eco-Safaris at Forever Florida takes guests on a new Zipline Safari experience, a treetop nature tour reaching heights of 55 feet and speeds up to 20 mph.
Walt Disney World Resort has introduced Disney's Online Check-In Service. Guests can register and check in to their hotel from home. Upon arrival, guests simply show a photo ID at the Online Check-In Service location to receive their room key.
The Orlando/Orange County CVB's 25th Anniversary Savings Celebration offers any meeting booked by September 1, 2009, and held in 2009, a 2.5% discount off the master account at any one of 30 participating Orlando area meetings hotels.
Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 831-1844, ext. 42484
Orlando/Orange County CVB
Tampa Bay & Company
The municipal Kissimmee Gateway Airport offers three unique venues: Stallion 51, with 12,000 square feet of covered space and an additional 15,000 square feet of outdoor space; Ranger Jet Center, two hangars with 12,000 square feet of space each and two hangars with 18,000 square feet of space each; and Kissimmee Air Museum, a facility dedicated to Warbird fighters, featuring a 10,500-square-foot hangar with a 400-square-foot meeting room. www.meetings.floridakiss.com; (407) 944-2484
Walt Disney World Resort's recently opened, 70,000-square-foot Jostens Center at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex can host www.disneymeetings.com; (321) 939-7221activities as well as receptions for groups of up to 2,000 participants.
The 35,000-square-foot Orlando Harley-Davidson Historic Factory Dealership regularly hosts indoor and outdoor events for 100 to 3,000 people. Events can start with a five-bike motorcade to escort motorcoaches to the dealership. www.orlandoharley.com; (407) 423-0346
Safari Lodge at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo recently opened. It features an 11,000-square-foot grand hall and the Reilly Reserve, a 3,000-square-foot elevated annex with panoramic views of the park's African Safari, home to giraffes, elephants, zebras, and more. www.lowryparkzoo.com; (813) 935-8552