HB on the Scene: Caribe Royale Orlando reinvents itself

When the pandemic hit, hotels around the globe shut down completely, some to never reopen. Hotel companies were forced to lay off employees, some with years of valuable experience.

The ownership group of the Caribe Royale Orlando in Florida, Sierra Land Group, decided to use the pandemic to pivot and entirely reinvent the resort, undergoing a $160-million renovation, launching new programs and bringing in new leadership.

“They knew that the hotel needed a capital infusion and a renovation,” said Amaury Piedra, managing director, Caribe Royale Orlando. “But they also saw the potential of the resort, and knew that to really achieve its potential, some changes needed to be made—not only in direction, but in facilities and many different areas.”

Those changes began when the ownership group hired Piedra, who has more than 30 years of experience managing hotels. “We put a plan together that everybody agreed on, and said, ‘As tough as it is going to be, let’s do this during the pandemic,’” he said. “This pandemic is not going to last forever. So, when it ends, we’re in the best position when we come out of it, instead of waiting when we are out of it, because then we’ll be behind.’”

The hotel was closed for five months from the beginning of the pandemic and when it reopened, there were very few guests staying at the property. “If you look at the silver lining of it, it allowed us to plan everything,” said Piedra. “It allowed us to execute everything with minimal interruption to guests. It allowed us to really put a strategic plan together of where we really wanted to go.”

While the physical aspects of the property were transformed, the managing director said the most important change at the resort was the new team that was brought on. “We took advantage of the pandemic to hire a very talented team of leaders who perhaps would not have been available,” he said. “We jumped the gun on that a little bit on that on purpose. It was all part of the overall plan to come out of the pandemic full speed ahead.”

Renovation and additions

With the new hires and new focus, the property took on a transformation, from newly upgraded rooms to new venues and offerings.

“It was really a reimagination of the entire place from top to bottom,” said Piedra. “So whereas the renovation replaced what was already there, we took a different approach and reimagined it and thought, “What does it need to be Four Diamond and to be successful in the segments that we want to be successful?”

The resort’s 1,217 one-bedroom guestroom suites, plus 120 two-bedroom villas, were refreshed. The all-new 50,000-sq.-ft. Palms Ballroom was added to the already 170,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in a separate convention center and a new 19,000-sq.-ft. outdoor event lawn called The Grove recently debuted.

One of the most popular new venues on the property is the sports-themed Stadium Club, which fuses the energy of a nightclub with the comfort of a neighborhood sports bar.

Caribe Royale worked with Streetsense to create the design of the 9,000-sq.-ft., two-floor venue that features eight pro-level sports simulators by Full Swing Golf, two bars, two 165-inch XHD projector displays and a 110-ft. long, ribbon display television for immersive, 360-degree viewing.

Stadium Club

“Stadium Club celebrates sporting history while opening gateways to the future through innovative tech and virtual reality offerings,” says Alex Crawford, lead designer, Streetsense. “We sought to reimagine the average sports bar space by infusing unexpected layers of iconic sports memorabilia—such as larger-than-life artwork of sports legends and utilizing basketballs, soccer balls and volleyballs as shelf décor–into the high-energy and modern atmosphere of Stadium Club.”

The hotel partnered with Shimmy McHugh and Brava Management Group, which is seasoned in the operation of entertainment venues and nightclubs, running a number of venues in the Caribbean—most notably Club Brava.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to provide our guests with elevated experiences that they can’t find at any other hotel or resort in Orlando,” said Piedra. “Stadium Club is a multi-faceted, first-of-its-kind offering in the Central Florida market. Tapping into the rich sports and activity culture of Florida, Stadium Club was envisioned as a fresh, day-to-night entertainment venue for local sports enthusiasts as well as our leisure and corporate guests. Energetic and memorable, the lively atmosphere will combine with our chef-driven menus of stadium-inspired fare with engaging interior design elements to put guests in the center of their favorite sports games.”

New target audience

With all of the changes at the resort, including the new ballroom and outdoor event area, Piedra and his sales team put a focus on attracting more corporate and association business. “Our team has done a really good job of getting out there with potential customers,” he said. “We do a lot of customer events around the U.S., either with some of our partners or Visit Orlando or even on our own. Our feeling is that once we get them to come in and see everything, the rest takes care of itself.”

The new Stadium Club was built to offer a chance for meetings and events attendees to buy out the entire space or parts of it. It has more than 500 seats and a selection of multi-venue private buy-out areas—including the exclusive SkyBox with a dedicated VR suite—for groups of varying sizes.

WorldHotels Elite

In March, Caribe Royale became part of WorldHotels Elite Collection.

“The synergies between both groups have been very good,” said Piedra, who was approached about joining WorldHotels, when BWH Hotels, the parent company of the brand, was hosting an event at the property. “What is great about WorldHotels is that each hotel gets the benefits of being with a brand while maintaining their own individuality.”