SeaWorld Orlando files plans for its first hotel

December 15, 2023, 8:02 PM · SeaWorld Orlando might soon be joining its Central Florida rivals in offering an on-site hotel for its theme park guests.

The park has filed a Development Plan Review with Orange County for a 504-room hotel that it wishes to build on nearly 30 acres of back-of-house land at the corner of International Drive and Central Florida Parkway.

With the project name "Starboard," the 15-floor hotel would include 747 parking spaces and nearly 43,000 square feet of conference meeting space. It also would include a rooftop terrace bar. Hotel guests could access the theme park via an elevated boardwalk across landscaped grounds that would enter into the park next to the Nautilus theater.

Planned SeaWorld Orlando hotel
Site plan for the proposed SeaWorld Orlando hotel. Images from the Orange County public filing

Side view of planned SeaWorld hotel
Profile of the planned SeaWorld Orlando hotel

SeaWorld long has talked about developing hotels for its theme park properties, which also include SeaWorld-branded parks in San Diego and San Antonio, as well as Busch Gardens-branded parks in Tampa and Williamsburg, Virginia. The company's Central Florida rivals - Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and even Legoland Florida - all have multiple hotels on their properties, putting SeaWorld at a competitive disadvantage in booking guests who would have SeaWorld as their primary base for an Orlando-area vacation.

The approval process for the proposed hotel will carry into 2024. There's no timeline yet on when the hotel might open, should it be approved.

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Replies (4)

December 16, 2023 at 2:00 AM

If this moves forward, the price point is going to be what makes or break this hotel. Anything more than a "moderate budget" rack rate, and I suspect they'll have trouble filling rooms.

December 16, 2023 at 2:42 PM

I know I rag on Sea Worlds management a lot here, but this is a very smart move IMO. The Sea World, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and Busch Gardens package is a very compelling product and definitely can support its own company owned "resort area" hotel (probably more than one). They already sell 14 day all inclusive tickets with Discovery Cove packages and for UK residents. I'm assuming its also going to have free shuttle transport to Busch Gardens which will be a huge selling point and will increase BGT's attendance with high spending tourists. The fact that it has conference space is smart as well as that is easy low hanging fruit for group sales.

December 19, 2023 at 9:16 PM

The Aventura and Sapphire Falls are the likely market comps here. As James said, the price point may be the biggest factor in determining this hotel's success. SeaWorld doesn't seem to have the brand value to command a price premium above the market anymore.

December 20, 2023 at 8:29 AM

@Robert - I actually think with Discovery Cove across the street, Sea World could push the envelope in terms of price. I do think Aventura is a good comp here, but I anticipate Sea World really pushing for package deals for the 3 parks (Sea World, Discovery Cove, an Aquatica) instead of just selling this as another hotel. It also sounds like they will be leveraging their conference space by attracting smaller gatherings and offering theme park access within walking distance of the meeting spaces.

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