18 September 2009 by By Carl Cronan
ORLANDO-Planned expansions at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks should benefit area hotels for years to come, a local industry executive says. The anticipated result of longer stays by millions of tourists equate to additional room nights, occupancy and revenue.
"There is no doubt they will be helpful," Harris Rosen, president of locally based Rosen Hotels, tells GlobeSt.com. "It becomes very difficult for folks to see everything they want to see in one, two or three days, so they may add an additional day to their schedule."
Added attractions to Orlando theme parks announced over the past week include an expansion of Fantasyland at Disney's Magic Kingdom and an upgrade to the "Star Wars" exhibit at its nearby Hollywood Studios theme park, as well as a $200-million addition to Universal's Islands of Adventure based on J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" book series, including a full-scale Hogwarts Castle and related attractions, shops and restaurants. Both park operators compete for vacation dollars internationally, along with enticing Florida residents with unique discounts.
Earlier additions to local theme parks included a new roller coaster in May at SeaWorld Orlando called "Manta" that combines a thrill ride with an aquatic exhibit. Also, Universal Studios Florida opened its "Rip, Ride, Rockit" roller coaster ahead of its planned debut this fall.
Orlando has 450 hotels with a combined count of 112,000 guest rooms, making it the second-largest US hotel market behind Las Vegas. The city attracts more than 48 million visitors annually for business or pleasure, according to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Rosen, whose company owns seven local hotels with more than 6,300 rooms, says a few extra days of vacation will bring a dramatic boost to local occupancy levels, which fell below 70% this past summer, based on Smith Travel Research estimates. He points out that the theme park expansions could not have come at a better time, when hoteliers are looking for any signs of economic recovery in the next few years.
"We are grateful that these expansions are happening at this time," Rosen says. "They may not bring more people to the area, but they will keep them here a little bit longer and that's a huge benefit for us." GO BACK