More hotels, more rides - NBCUniversal's CEO outlines his vision for Universal's theme parks
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
"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.
For all of the folks who made apologies for Disney in the comments on the previous article, this should be a cold splash of water in the face.
Where did you got the impression European visitors don't like to rent cars? We for one have longer vacations. I can't afford to stay 6 weeks at Disney or Universal. We rent a home and visit the parks. But if I would come high season and had just a week I would go for Universal. The hotels look much nicer, the price is more reasonable and the 2 parks have more fun then the 4 Disney is offering together.
Just out of curiosity, how much was NBCUniversal's previous annual spending budget?
It's great seeing Universal investing money to correct the "good enough" attitude it's always had with its theme parks. To me, the Universal parks always looked kind of cheap and junky...one step above Six Flags and regional parks like Cedar Point. I don't like seeing the steel frames of the coasters and also don't like the fact that Universal has never seemed to care that sightlines bleed from one themed area into another, often very jarringly. Case in point: Hogwarts is seen from Jurassic Park, totally taking me out of the idea that I am "really" in Jurassic Park on an island somewhere.
I didn't say that European visitors don't like to rent cars. I wrote that not having to rent cars appeals to many visitors from Europe. Those statements aren't mutually exclusive. Some visitors like renting cars. Some don't. But if you're flying to a destination, not having to deal with the hassle of renting a car and driving in a foreign country appeals to many such visitors.
Disney seems to have found a way to avoid the need for cars on their resort. While it's not walkable like Universal, the transportation system is pretty efficient. They've even gone to the extreme of welcoming guests who don't want to be burdoned with rental cars by providing the Magical Express service, which takes guests straight to the parks and their luggage to their rooms. Not only do they get guests in their parks faster to start spending money, but without a car, those guests are pretty much stuck on Disney property for the duration of their stay.
With the addition of the Harry Potter themed lands, our family FINALLY wanted to go to Universal. Living in Nevada, we visit Disneyland several times a year. The last time we went to Universal Hollywood was on our honeymoon in 1999. At that time, that "park" had 32 stores, 29 eateries and 16 attractions. Really? (numbers may be off but that is what we remembered). My hubby does not do roller coasters. I do but how fun can that be to always wait for me to get off of a ride? He can do 3D type rides and I cannot. Disney offers us the ability to do both in a completely immersed experience. He doesn't mind waiting while I ride a coaster and vice versa.
"Cheap and junky" Annette? Really? One step above Six Flags or Cedar Fair? Oh please. I don't want to start a debate, but when Six Flags builds a park with the theming that is in IOA alone, will be the day that I skydive naked from a Boeing 747 over Mount Kilamanjaro.
Yes, Annette, I am a Disney basher, and I make no apologies about it since I've been hammering Disney about their cheapskate investment practices on this site for well over a decade, but some of your comments make me shake my head in wonder.
Yeah Tim, I don't get it either. I love both Universal and Disney parks, but to say that Universal is at Six Flags/Holiday Inn level is just absurd. She argues that since you can see The Lost Continent from WWoHP in Islands of Adventure, that it is basically a Six Flags. I do agree that Universal has some sight line issues, but that is not one of them. You can see the entrance to Tomorrowland from the entrance to Adventureland in MK... Is the MK cheap and is all sense of theme lost because of this?
Universal really seems to be on the ball in Florida. I will admit I wasn't impressed with universal studios hollywood other than the back lot tour. that was cool, but pretty much everything else in the park sucked compared to florida.
I'm not usually a commenter, but I do have to rant.
Oh, the fog of pixie dust is sometimes so all consuming. Both WDW & Universal are far above the competition. That's pretty obvious to any reasonable people. And it's surely great that Universal(Comcast) plans to spend a ton of money for new attractions. Universal has a good track record for innovation & quality of attractions. And to make the kind of statement about Spiderman that one of above posters made is just ludicrous. Why do these type of comments usually come from anonymous posters? What's up with that?
Extremely well said Alex.
The one element missing from Universal's resort hotels is theming. There's a story behind every Disney resort with an accompanying theme where Universal's hotels are just, well, typical resort hotels. Sure the Nickelodeon hotel has some theming with its properties but its tacky vs. themed.
I love a good rant/flame war, but y'all had me at "skydive naked from a Boeing 747 over Mount Kilamanjaro." Wow.
This is great news for theme park fans all! 500 million a year from the company that brought us Spiderman, transformers and HP forbidden journey? Yes please!
Can't tell if you approve, or disapprove of my comment, Robert. Hehehe.
@Robert You are right, renting a car is like having a root canal treatment in the VS. And driving in Florida is wildly different from driving in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, UK or France (places I drive/drove) but it's mostly slower so that's ok. The point I tried to make is most Europeans come much longer than 1 week. Non of them are staying for more than a week at a theme park resort. The most popular thing is renting a car in Miami and drive around the state, cross over at Orlando to Tampa and trough the Glades back to Miami. But yes, Disney is transporting heaps of guests to and from the Airport.
Rob, sorry, I am not really an anonymous poster but my phone does not support the login for this site.
One more thing from this anon poster...just to clarify. I said IIIIII don't do 3-D. My husband and son went on Spiderman. My husband has had a bromance with Peter Parker since he was a kid and was looking forward to one of the few rides that he would do. He said it was hard to hear and he was unable to follow the story because of that.
This makes me extremely happy. While I love both, I have always preferred Universal to Disney. Universal's more adult feel, better rides, and the inclusion of WWOHP have put it at the top of my favorite parks list.
Umm, the Universal hotels all have a theme, but not everything needs a back story. That is Disney's way of making things that are lame seem "magical".
The only thing I would not like about Universal building more hotels is if they included the Universal Pass as the 3 currents hotels do. Too many hotel rooms getting that benefit would make it useless at a certain point.
To Anonymous: Nothing personal pertaining to your anonymous posting, especially since it's due to your location...The reason that I made the comment concerning Anonymous posters is that it seems that nearly every time Robert Niles does an article that puts a positive spin on Universal, it seems that immediately there are a large number of anonymous negative Universal pro Disney comments. That makes me suspicious that these postings are being directed by a Disney and or affiliated group. In the normal course of articles there aren't usually many anonymous postings. Of course I have no proof of this, but it sometimes seems a lot more than coincidental.
$500 million per year? I think for a rising Universal Orlando resort it is getting strength for the partial expansions for the returns on investment. Steve Burke is a stud because he did a very smart thing to handle about the useful investments and returns for additional spending management.
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