Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Things To Do

Universal Orlando opens huge retro hotel

RECOMMENDED READING


Universal Orlando has invested hundreds of millions of dollars during the past four years in attractions that have drawn throngs of new visitors to Central Florida. Now, Orlando's No. 2 theme-park resort is trying to keep more of those visitors on its property.

Today, Universal will welcome its first guests to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the first hotel built at Universal in more than a decade. The largest hotel under construction in North America, the retro, beach-themed Cabana Bay will be Universal's fourth hotel. Once the final phase is completed by summer, the hotel will increase the resort's inventory of rooms from 2,400 to 4,200.

Universal isn't done, however. Executives at Comcast Corp., which owns the NBCUniversal media-and-entertainment empire, say they plan to build more hotels in Orlando in the coming years — potentially quadrupling or quintupling Universal Orlando's current inventory.

Experts say Universal's aggressive hotel expansion threatens to take business from other hotels, particularly competitors that ring the resort and rely on Universal visitors to fill their rooms.

"Once they get fully opened, I'm sure we'll see an impact, especially in peak season," said Jane Miller, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Major Boulevard, less than a mile from Universal.

NBCUniversal President Steve Burke told investment analysts last fall that the company's research shows travelers who stay at Universal Orlando hotels, operated through a joint venture with Loews Hotels & Resorts, typically spend an extra day or two in the resort's theme parks.

"We have far too few hotel rooms in Orlando," Burke said. "We've done a study that says we could have as many as 10,000 or 15,000 hotel rooms and still have occupancy that makes those rooms profitable."

In ordering more hotel rooms, Comcast is borrowing a page from the Walt Disney Co. playbook. Disney has built about 30,000 hotel rooms and time-share suites in the U.S. — 90 percent of them at Disney World — that allow the company to capture more of the total vacation spending by visitors to its theme parks.

Once merely a side business for its theme parks, hotels are now a major profit center for Disney. The company's U.S. hotels generated more than $2.2 billion in revenue last year — one in every five dollars produced by Disney's domestic parks-and-resorts operations.

"Universal has looked at Disney, and they see it's a very effective strategy. And they're trying to mirror that," said Scott Smith, an assistant professor who teaches lodging and revenue management at the University of South Carolina's School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

Universal is emulating Disney's hotels in another respect, too. Unlike Universal's first three hotels — all of which are marketed as "deluxe" properties with rates routinely exceeding $300 a night — Cabana Bay will offer the resort's first rooms with "value" and "moderate" prices. Rates at Cabana Bay, will start at $94 a night for a family suite.

Disney has made a similar push into rooms that target price-conscious consumers.

As Universal adds more hotel rooms, it also threatens to siphon bookings away from Disney. But Smith said Disney will be somewhat insulated because it targets slightly different core audiences than Universal.

"Disney gets smaller children, the pirates and the princesses. When you're a teen or tween, you really want to go to Universal," Smith said.

Universal isn't done adding attractions. Comcast says it plans to spend $500 million a year on theme-park capital spending during the next few years, an amount that should allow it to open major attractions each year at both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood in Southern California.

And this summer, it will open the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida — the sequel to its smash-hit original Harry Potter area at Islands of Adventure.

Comments
What’s in theaters for Thanksgiving: ‘Coco,’ ‘Last Flag Flying,’ ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

What’s in theaters for Thanksgiving: ‘Coco,’ ‘Last Flag Flying,’ ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

NOW IN THEATERS:COCODisney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good as its intentions.Migu...
Updated: 4 hours ago
5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

5 things to do under $5 Nov. 23-30: Craft festival, License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day, Snow Bash

1. Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show and Sale: Check out these rocks when more than 50 dealers from around the United States sell crystals, minerals, beads, gems and jewelry. $5. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer talks about Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and his third act with holiday music

Brian Setzer knows he’s overdue for a trip to Florida. For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

Black Friday, Cyber Monday ticket deals in Tampa Bay: Amy Grant, Diana Krall, 98 Degrees and more

This Black Friday weekend, you can head to your local shopping center and fight traffic to get the perfect gift. Or you can stay at home by your computer and give the gift of entertainment.A handful of Tampa Bay concert venues are offering ticket dea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

This week’s best Tampa Bay concerts: Brian Setzer, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, 21 Savage, more

SWINGIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE: Brian Setzer OrchestraWhen you spend 13 straight Thanksgivings on the road, you build some traditions with your crew. "We get a big ballroom," said Brian Setzer. "I don’t know how many turkeys we go through, but ev...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that aren’t Thanksgiving

Some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving that aren’t Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day!Or is it? Sometimes life just doesn’t come together at 2 p.m. on Thursday.Circumstances mean it’s not always possible to sit around the table on Thanksgiving, a family in a Publix ad smiling over a glistening bird. Maybe family is ou...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Watch the unseen footage in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trailer

Watch the unseen footage in ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ trailer

Can we all agree that John Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the ultimate Thanksgiving movie? (And maybe actually his best movie of the '80s? Think about it.) And though I'm sure many of us will be watching it again this holiday weekend, when...
Updated: 8 hours ago
4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

4 art exhibits to check out with family (or on your own) over Thanksgiving weekend

Perhaps you have relatives in town for the weekend, and you’re running out of ways to entertain them. Or maybe you’re wondering what to do with your long weekend. There’s a perfect solution for either scenario: Go see some art. There’s plenty on vi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
David Cassidy … rest in peace

David Cassidy … rest in peace

David Cassidy was absolutely one of the biggest teen idols of the 1970s. From his lofty perch with TV's The Partridge Family, he was perhaps – along with the Brady boys – among the first male role models for kids like me who grew up glued...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Top things to do this weekend: Lindsey Stirling, Faizon Love, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live

Top things to do this weekend: Lindsey Stirling, Faizon Love, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live

PULLING STRINGS: Lindsey StirlingDubstep violist Lindsey Stirling shot to fame as a quarter-finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2010 and she has been rocking the spangles on Dancing With the Stars this season as the last woman left . But on Friday yo...
Updated: 8 hours ago