The era of budget hotels near Walt Disney World is over as luxury resorts continue to pop up around the park
Central Florida’s tourism sector still has ways to go before safely declaring that the pandemic-induced slowdown is behind it, but that doesn’t stop investors from pushing ahead with big plans. After years of focusing on budget-conscious travelers, the area is now shifting its orientation to attract those on the other end of the financial spectrum. A large number of luxury resorts are creating an upscale resort area surrounding the eastern side of Walt Disney World.
Grand Lakes, with its JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotel, started the trend. Then there’s the Four Seasons Orlando, within the Disney Golden Oak residential community. The Four Seasons Hotel has been seen as the preferred choice for many luxury travelers since it opened in 2014. But its position at the top of luxury options in the region may soon change thanks to the influx of luxury offerings coming to the region.
This new wave of luxury offerings was launched last summer when the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek opened. As the second JW Marriott in Central Florida, the new Bonnet Creek Resort has cemented the area’s reputation as a reliable investment for luxury lodging. The sixteen-story, 516-room hotel is joined by other Bonnet Creek flags, including the Waldorf Astoria.
At the nearby Swan and Dolphin at the Disney facility, Marriott opened its newest hotel, the Swan Reserve, last week. This business-focused hotel adds 349 rooms to the already massive Swan and Dolphin resort complex, while also debuting a private rooftop ballroom that has already become one of the hottest venues for weddings and special events. It is the fourth Autograph Collection hotel in the Orlando market.
To the northeast, just opposite the Disney property, the new Conrad Hotel will anchor the upcoming Evermore resort complex.
And now another luxury brand is joining the action, as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts confirms South International Drive at its first Florida location. The ultra-luxury brand is best known for its iconic hotels, which are usually found in city centers or as remote resorts.
“We are pleased to announce that we are introducing the iconic Vermont brand to the vibrant city of Orlando, one of the most visited destinations in the United States,” said Heather McCrory of Vermont. “The signing of this new development demonstrates Accor’s expertise in the luxury automobile sector and underscores our continued commitment to expanding our footprint in strategic markets throughout North America. The Fairmont Orlando will be a significant addition to Accor’s growing luxury portfolio in the region, and is set to become a prominent Orlando hotel serving even the most discerning travellers. astuteness”.
The new Fairmont may be their most ambitious project yet, as the 30-acre resort brimming with luxury offerings. Of the 550 rooms in the seven-storey hotel, there will be 90 suites and 12 unique multi-room villas. Food and beverage options will include a signature restaurant with a capacity of 140 seats, a fine steakhouse and several lounges.
Outside, guests can enjoy the family pool, lazy river, or escape to the adults-only pool area.
At just 12,000 square feet, many dwarf the area, including the world’s largest 40,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton resort at Grand Lakes, but the Fairmont will focus on private experiences with seven treatment rooms and a gym.
According to the trend we noted earlier this year, Vermont will no longer rely on large conference rooms. Instead, there will only be 44,000 square feet of meeting and event space throughout the property. This puts it well ahead of the nearby Conrad Hotel but far below other Orlando hotels, including the Swan and Dolphin, which together have more than 330,000 square feet of meeting space.
The project brings to life Atlanta-based Smallwood Architects. Smallwood also supervised the design of Bonnet Creek and Grande Lakes. Recently, they worked at the upcoming Fairmont Hotel in Goa, India. He will oversee the interior design of Fairmont Orlando by SFA Design, a New York and California design firm known for its bold renovations at L’ermitage Beverly Hills and historic Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.
The Orlando Fairmont is scheduled to open in 2025, two years after the Conrad opened at The Orlando.
Stay up-to-date with Central Florida news and perspectives with our weekly newsletter, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but powerful team works tirelessly to provide you with news of Central Florida, and every little bit helps you.