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Counting on a Rebound

Loews Hotels has just opened its third and biggest resort in the land of theme parks. A few months ago, prospects for another 1,000-room hotel in the Orlando market looked dim. But, analysts say, the Royal Pacific Resort's location and amenities could position it to capitalize on the rebound from the slump in family travel after Sept. 11.

“We're cautiously optimistic,” says Jack Adler, president and COO of Loews Hotels, referring to the June 18 opening of the hotel, located on the grounds of Universal Orlando. Universal Inc. and Loews also are equal partners in the Royal Pacific and two other properties — the 750-room Portofino Bay Hotel and the 650-room Hard Rock Hotel — located near Universal. “We know we have a special amenity outside our doorstep with the Universal theme parks.” Adler declined to disclose the cost of the resort.

Rod Petrik, a lodging analyst for Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in Baltimore, says the location of the hotel and its high level of amenities are major factors in the resort's favor. The hotel is right next to the popular Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks. Petrik says the hotels in Orlando that are experiencing the most financial difficulties are the older, limited-service properties on International Drive.

He adds that the improving occupancy and revenue numbers also bode well for the resort. “I think it will be an interesting summer there,” says Petrik. “We're seeing group and leisure travel beginning to pick up. I wouldn't be surprised if occupancy in Orlando is in line with last year, or maybe even a point or two higher.”

In another sign that the outlook for hotels may be improving in Orlando, Walt Disney Co. has finally set a definite opening date — March 2003 — for its Pop Century Resort. Disney had postponed the opening indefinitely last fall due to the recession and the decline in leisure travel.

The Royal Pacific Resort, which opened with room rates of $125 per night, features Tchoup Chop, the latest restaurant from Food Network chef Emeril Lagasse.

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