Universal Orlando to add value hotels

ORLANDO, FL—Five years ago, guests coming to Universal Orlando Resort had three on-site hotel options, all of which fell into two categories—premier or preferred. In 2014, the theme-park destination added its first prime-value resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. By 2019, the portfolio of hotels will have more than doubled to eight open properties, including a fourth property type: value hotels.

Universal Orlando, along with longtime hotel partner Loews Hotels & Co., is planning two new hotels—comprising a combined 2,800 guestrooms, including 1,450 two-bedroom suites designed for families—that will target a lower price point than either of its prime-value resorts, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort or Universal’s Aventura Hotel (which is set to open this summer). According to the company, the newest hotels will start at less than $100 per night, making them affordable options for guests looking to experience the magic of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or the thrill of the Fast & Furious–Supercharged attraction, which is set to debut in Florida in spring 2018.

“We are excited to be expanding our hotel portfolio and offering hotel options for any traveler, any budget, any style,” said Tom Roditus, SVP of operations for Loews Hotels & Co., who oversees all of the Orlando properties. “As Universal Orlando Resort continues on its unprecedented growth trajectory as a destination by adding a third theme park, Universal’s Volcano Bay, and other new rides and attractions, it makes sense to increase our hotel inventory.”

Volcano Bay is a water park themed around a 200-ft.-tall volcano, which opened last May on the site of Wet ‘n Wild, Universal Orlando Resort’s former water park. It joins Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, the resort’s other theme parks, as well as Universal CityWalk Orlando, a 30-acre entertainment complex with dozens of clubs, restaurants and shops.

“Staying here is the best way to experience everything Universal Orlando has to offer, and consumers have responded to that message with resounding results,” Roditus said.

Once the hotels open, the resort will offer rooms across four categories—premier, preferred, prime value and value “to give guests more flexibility and more options than ever before in terms of price, benefits and amenities,” Roditus said.

The 750-room and 2,050-room hotels will be located proximate to Universal Orlando’s three theme parks and Universal CityWalk’s dining and entertainment options. “The hotels will be located at the intersection of Universal Blvd. and International Dr.,” Roditus said. “Amenities will include a combined three pools, two food courts offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and nearby coffee bars, plus poolside bars, fitness rooms, car rental facilities and more.”

In addition to hotel amenities, guests at the two properties will receive Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Universal’s Volcano Bay, complimentary transportation across the destination and resort-wide charging privileges.

Brought to life by the same Universal Creative team behind the resort’s existing hotels—which also include Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort—designs for the properties evoke what Roditus called a “laid-back coastal feel.” Design elements will include large external murals featuring vibrant and natural colors.

The new hotels will bring the total number of guestrooms at the destination to 9,000 when combined with the 600-room Aventura Hotel opening in August. This property will offer a technology focus, with in-room tablets that control room features, such as the TV, temperature controls and more. To further the technology offerings, the hotel will also have a virtual reality game room and dive-in movie experience with an underwater speaker system in the resort-style pool.

“We know that our guests expect a seamless and memorable vacation when they stay at Universal Orlando Resort. Our hotels are destinations unto themselves,” Roditus noted.

The executive also noted that timing is great for new development. “Visitation to Orlando continues to be strong, with a record 68 million visitors in 2016, according to Visit Orlando,” Roditus said, adding that, as the second largest hotel market in the U.S., Orlando does see its fair share of new inventory coming into the market. “The challenge in this constantly evolving and competitive environment is to differentiate. Through our joint venture partnership, Loews Hotels & Co and Universal Orlando have continued to see strong results by creating a seamless vacation experience and offering our guests special benefits and access when they stay with us.

“The seventh and eighth hotels are Loews Hotels & Co.’s largest investment to date in our joint venture that began almost 20 years ago with Universal Orlando,” Roditus continued. “We are certainly bullish, but we closely monitor all of the factors that impact demand.”