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Hotels near Orlando International Airport see growth in pursuit of business travelers
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Courtesy: Marco Santana | News Source:

A new, full-service bar at the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Orlando International Airport could seem to be little more than a minor facelift.

But hotel officials hope the lounge will keep customers in the building, spending more time and money there rather than at nearby establishments.

It’s an effort to compete in what has become a growing hotel and restaurant community in and around the airport, one that expects to expand even more when OIA opens a new terminal during the next couple of years.

Anchored by the Hyatt Regency inside of the country’s 10th busiest airport, there are more than two dozen hotels in the immediate area.

Restaurant chains such as TGI Friday’s, Chili’s and Cracker Barrel line Semoran Boulevard leading into the airport, as does the Epic Theaters at Lee Vista, which opened in early 2016.

Leaders at the renovated Hampton Inn & Suites say the changes at the 7-year-old property could help it pursue more of the business traveler’s dollar.

“We think this is a very strong market, and there are more hotels coming,” said Sebastian Peralta, regional vice president of operations for McKibbon Hospitality, which oversees the Hampton and nearby Homewood Suites by Hilton.

The expansion comes in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, with more than 75 million visitors coming to Orlando last year.

Visit Orlando, the publicly funded tourism-marketing agency, says 85% of visitors come here for the theme parks and other attractions. Hoteliers near the airport estimate that the number drops to 35% around the airport, with the other 65% being business travelers.

Peralta expects a similar split with Hyatt House Orlando Airport, a new property McKibbon recently broke ground on just south of the Hampton property.

Mount Dora-based Southern Hospitality Management & Development also is planning a 164-room Towneplace Suites by Marriott on Butler National Drive near Semoran Boulevard.

Appealing to traditional tourists, many of whom stay on International Drive near Universal Studios or on Walt Disney World properties, would be a wasted effort for hotels near the airport, said Paul Pedone, general manager at La Quinta Inn & Suites at 7160 No Frontage Road, about a mile from the airport.

“You really have to grab your business here,” said Pedone, who has been in the industry more than 20 years. “You’re not going to get the Disney business because families don’t typically stay here. I’m looking for flight crews.”

Pedone said his hotel also has established an informal partnership with nearby JetBlue University, a training facility that has kept a steady flow of students coming through.

But a huge $2 billion variable ? an airport expansion that will add 19 new gates by 2021 ? could lead to more growth, Perdone said.

"There won’t be enough hotels,” said Pedone, whose 148-room hotel opened in August 1998. “We probably won’t have enough when it gets to be that time.”

The cluster of hotels around the airport has seen periodic growth since the 1980s. The largest expansion came when eight new properties added 1,097 rooms to the area in 1998 and 1999.

The neighborhood has 27 properties that contain 4,875 rooms on Semoran Boulevard and west of Semoran along McCoy Road, according to data provided by the industry research firm STR.

But expansion has generally slowed, with Home2Suites by Hilton Orlando Airport’s opening in March representing the first new hotel in the area since 2013.

At the nearby, 297-room Renaissance Orlando Airport Hotel, an electronic board in the lobby lists flight information such as changes or delays and a digital kiosk shows off nearby nightlife and entertainment options, targeting business travelers.

“If you are coming to Orlando for reasons outside of traditional tourism, most find it better to be in an area where you don’t have attraction distraction,” said Jessica Sherbert, director of sales and events.

The Renaissance’s location near the airport enables a different approach toward competition, too.

While properties in the area do compete, “it’s a friendly competition. But it’s definitely competitive, no doubt about it,” Sherbert said.

“If you think of Fortune 500 companies, they do a lot of meetings and most are not saying, ‘Let’s have it in Orlando,’” she said. “They are saying, ‘Where can we get the most bang for our buck?’”

The bar was a bit of a coup for the Hampton Inn & Suites location.

Under the chain’s rules, management companies must apply for permission to open a bar on Hampton properties. A second Hampton in the area, for instance, does not have a bar.

Up until now, Peralta and staff had to recommend restaurants and bars in the area.

“This is something extra for our guests,” he said. “We want to give them as full experience as we can. This way, they are not just stuck in their room.”

Got a news tip? or 407-420-5256; Twitter, @marcosantana

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