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Would Four Seasons work at Disney World???? $600 and up for rooms

Posted by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 4:31 PM
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Do you like Walt Disney World, but don't particularly like Disney's hotels?

In about two years, you'll have a new, pricey option when the luxury hotel operator Four Seasons opens up a $360 million resort inside Disney's Orlando theme park.

Four Seasons announced on Tuesday that the project has financing, and that the developer will break ground in December.

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It will be located in Disney's master-planned Golden Oaks community near the Osprey Ridge Golf Course, which Four Seasons will eventually manage.

When the resort opens in late 2014, it will be the Toronto-based hotel operator's biggest yet with 444 rooms and an unusual variety of family friendly amenities.

Families who stay there will find a climbing wall, basketball courts and a teen recreation center. In terms of dining, they'll be able to have dinner at a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the Magic Kingdom.

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Four Seasons expects to fill about half the rooms with families and Disney fans there to strictly to enjoy the park, and the other half with business people there to attend business meetings, conventions and incentive trips - and perhaps bring their families.

Does Disney attract Four Seasons customers?

Room rates haven't officially been discussed yet, but rooms at the Grand Floridian - now Disney World's highest-end option - run $440 to $2,185 a night, according to its website. A room at the Four Seasons two years from now - if travel continues to recover from the recession - could easily cost $600 and up.

Will there be enough people willing to pay for a Four Seasons experience?

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Yes, says veteran hotel industry analyst Bjorn Hanson, the dean of New York University's hospitality school.

"It's not just Middle America that goes to Disney," he says. "It's a very diverse market."

Luxury travel agent Stacy Small, president of Los Angeles-based Elite Travel International, says her customers currently stay at Grand Floridian.

But when they travel around the world, they're accustomed to checking into hotels that carry famous luxury brands such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Mandarin Oriental. She tells me that she expects to have an easy time booking the new hotel - and brand.

"We will have a lot of clients wanting to stay at Four Seasons Disney," Small says. "It will be the only true luxury resort option in a family friendly destination that hasn't specifically catered to this market."

Data: Orlando hotels fill more rooms

News that the Four Seasons project is going ahead comes as Orlando hotels see a healthy rebound in business.

For the first seven months of this year, Orlando hotels filled 72% of their rooms - more than 67% a year ago and 65% in 2009, according to Smith Travel Research.

Orlando hotels, however, aren't as full as they were during the same period in 2007, when they filled 73% of rooms.

The deal: Behind the scenes

Four Seasons was able to find financing for the resort despite lenders' lack of interest in the category since September 2008, when Lehman Brothers crashed, financial markets melted down and travelers cut back on trips - especially luxury trips. Though luxury hotels are seeing a rebound in business since the recession, financing full-service hotels still remains almost impossible.

"One of the things we're excited about is that we were able to move forward in an environment that's certainly been challenging, particularly since the fall of 2008," Scott Woroch, Four Seasons' global development chief tells me. "It really speaks to the entire group's confidence" in the project.

Four Seasons will hold a 30% stake in the project; the rest will be split between New York-based developer Silverstein Properties and New York private equity fund Dune Real Estate Partners. Grupo Financiero Imbursa, a Mexico City based bank tied to billionaire Carlos Slim, will provide a $190 million in construction financing.

Readers: What do you think about this addition to Disney World?







by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 4:31 PM
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