One of the largest recent announcements from SeaWorld Parks
(SEAS) CEO Joel Manby was that the partnership with local boutique hotelier Evans Hotels
will involve what looks to be a more upscale resort and both Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa have been discussed as potential development areas.
In January, the Orlando Business Journal
reported that SEAS was looking to add 2,500 rooms across the nation. Now, rumors are gaining some traction on when and where we could see Florida’s share of those rooms.
In Orlando, the rumors involve a number of options. While large chunks of the identified expansion areas involves property on the more peripheral areas of the resort, there are few pieces that are much more tied into the parks. Wrapping around the western and southern edge of the Discover Cove park is a small but important expansion plot. Tying into the luxury, tropical theme of Discovery Cove, a rumored new resort with bungalows similar to the ones that opened recently at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, is also rumored. Unlike the ones at Walt Disney World, the Discovery Cove resort would look into the park, specifically the Grand Reef area. The resort would also feature more traditional rooms along the southern edge of the property. A similar bungalow hotel may also be on tap for San Antonio.
In Tampa, SEAS has identified property north of Adventure Island and Busch Gardens for development, but the strongest hotel rumors involve a slice of property overlooking their 65 acre Serengeti Plain animal habitat. Long before Animal Kingdom Lodge opened at Disney World (Animal Kingdom itself being built over concern from BGT) Busch Gardens had plans for a similar resort. With no on-site options and varied quality in the surrounding off-site options, a hotel at BGT could prove to be successful. In the surrounding market, there are a number of hotels, including some on the campus of the nearby University of South Florida. To differentiate itself in such a market, an animal-focused resort hotel could be a great option. The resort would likely have its own access to BGT and numerous on-site dining options.
Over at SeaWorld and Aquatica, the rumors seem to point to typical resort hotels with family suites, on property dining options and other amenities you would find at a normal resort hotel, like those at Universal Orlando. The hotels will likely also include convention space and offer unique park perks for guests.
Other properties, such as the one abutting I-4, would likely see your typical cookie-cutter hotel tower with the simplest of tie-ins, similar to the hotels at the corner of Central Florida Parkway
All of the hotels are rumored to be through third party operators with the Florida ones being a larger brand name than in San Diego. Marriott seems to be coming up in multiple rumors but nothing solid on that front has bubbled up.
There’s no indication if SEAS will release more details in February. In the meantime, remember that these are still unannounced plans that could change at any time, the positive thing does seem though is that each time the rumors change they do seem to get a little larger in the overall scope. What we'll know on Feb. 25 though, is if the current refocusing at SeaWorld is working.