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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The age of budget hotels near Walt Disney World is over as luxury resorts continue to pop up around the park

Posted By on Wed, Nov 17, 2021 at 3:53 PM

  • Image via Fairmont Orlando
Central Florida’s tourism sector still has a ways to go before it can safely declare the pandemic-induced downturn is behind it, but that’s not stopping investors from forging ahead with big plans. After years of focusing on budget-conscious travelers, the region is now shifting gears in an appeal to those on the other end of the financial spectrum. A slew of luxury resorts are creating a high-end resort zone surrounding the eastern side of Walt Disney World.

Grande Lakes, with its JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, kicked off the trend. Then there’s the Four Seasons Orlando, inside Disney’s Golden Oak gated residential community. The Four Seasons has been viewed as the go-to option for many luxury travelers since in opened in 2014. But it's spot on the top of the luxury options in the region may soon change thanks to an outpouring of luxury offerings coming to the area.
click to enlarge The Swan Reserve at WDW - IMAGE VIA KEN STOREY
  • Image via Ken Storey
  • The Swan Reserve at WDW
This new wave of luxury offerings launched last summer when the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek opened. As Central Florida’s second JW Marriott, the new Bonnet Creek resort cemented the region’s reputation as a reliable investment for luxury lodging. The sixteen-story, 516-room hotel joined other Bonnet Creek flags, including the Waldorf Astoria.

At the nearby Swan and Dolphin on Disney property, Marriott opened their newest hotel, the Swan Reserve, last week. This executive-focused hotel adds 349 rooms to the already massive Swan and Dolphin resort complex while also debuting a private rooftop ballroom that is already becoming one of the hottest spots for wedding and special events. It’s the fourth Autograph Collection hotel in the Orlando market.

To the northeast, just off Disney property, a new Conrad hotel will anchor the upcoming Evermore resort complex.
  • Image via Evermore Resort
Now yet another luxury brand is joining the action, with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts confirming South International Drive for their first Florida location. The ultra-luxury brand is best known for its iconic hotels, typically found in city centers or as remote destination resorts.

“We are pleased to announce that we are bringing the celebrated Fairmont brand to the lively city of Orlando, one of the most visited destinations in the U.S.,” said Fairmont's Heather McCrory, . “The signing of this new development demonstrates Accor’s expertise in the luxury segment and emphasizes our sustained commitment to expanding our footprint in strategic markets throughout North America. Fairmont Orlando will be a notable addition to Accor’s growing luxury portfolio in the region and is poised to become a prominent hotel in Orlando catering to the most discerning of travelers.”

The new Fairmont may be their most ambitious project yet, with the 30-acre resort brimming with luxurious offerings. Among the 550 rooms in the seven-story hotel, there will be 90 suites and 12 unique multi-room villas. Food and beverage options will include a 140-seat signature restaurant, an upscale steakhouse, and numerous lounges.

Outside, guests can enjoy a family pool, a lazy river, or escape to an adults-only pool area.

At just 12,000 square feet, the spa is dwarfed by many in the area, including the 40,000 square foot world’s largest Ritz-Carlton spa at Grande Lakes, but Fairmont’s will focus on private experiences with seven treatment rooms and a gym.

Following a trend we noted earlier this year, Fairmont won’t rely on large convention halls. Instead, there will be just 44,000 square feet of meetings and event space across the entire property. That places it ahead of the nearby Conrad but well below other hotels in Orlando, including the Swan and Dolphin, which together hold more than 330,000 square feet of meeting space.

The project is bringing back Atlanta-based Smallwood Architects. Smallwood also oversaw the design of Bonnet Creek and Grande Lakes. More recently, they’ve worked on the upcoming Fairmont Hotel in Goa, India. Interior design of the Fairmont Orlando will be overseen by SFA Design, a New York and California design firm known for their bold renovations of the L’ermitage Beverly Hills and Phoenix’s historic Arizona Biltmore.

The Orlando Fairmont is scheduled to open in 2025, two years after Orlando’s Conrad opens.

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