More hotels, more rides - NBCUniversal's CEO outlines his vision for Universal's theme parks
Written by Robert Niles
Can you imagine a Universal Orlando Resort with more than four times as many hotel rooms as it has now? Universal has done a feasibility study that claims the resort could fill up to 10,000-15,000 rooms on its property, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told stock analysts yesterday.Tweet
"We need to get those hotel rooms open and build out the resort," Burke said, according to an Orlando Sentinel report of the meeting.
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort, under construction at Universal Orlando earlier this year.
Universal Orlando currently has three on-site hotels, offering 2,400 hotel rooms. Next year, Universal and its hotel partner Loews will open the 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort, bringing the total number of rooms on site to 4,200. But where would the additional 6,000-plus rooms go? The remaining space around Cabana Bay? The Wet n' Wild property? Into CityWalk, above retail and dining facilities? All of the above?
One of the great benefits of Universal Orlando, as currently configured, is that it is not car-dependent, as much of the Walt Disney World Resort is. You can park your car and never have to go on a road for the duration of your stay at Universal Orlando. (Or, if you get a shuttle from the Orlando airport, you can visit Universal Orlando without needing to rent a car, which appeals to many visitors from Europe.) Everything's in walking distance, or, if you don't feel like walking that far, boats await to take you to and from your hotel. Could Universal preserve alternate, non-road transport options for guests in up to 15,000 rooms?
Universal is developing Cabana Bay to be a lower-priced option that its existing hotels, where rates start at around $200 a night. One could reasonably assume that Universal's additional hotels could appeal to price points both below and above its current properties. Perhaps a budget hotel located over near Wet n' Wild, similar in price and finish to Disney's All-Star Resorts? Or an ultra-luxe, high-priced hotel set in between the two parks, above the shops of CityWalk, a la Disney's Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland?
What will all those visitors do when they come to Universal Orlando? Burke told the analysts that Universal has increased its capital spending on theme parks to about $500 million a year, and that he expects that to be the company's new normal for annual capital spending. He said that the company's goal is to open a new attraction every year at both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Half a billion a year on new stuff in the parks? Every year? This really is a great time to be in theme parks.
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