Universal Orlando is experiencing unprecedented success - and owner Comcast plans to invest hundreds of millions to keep improving the resort.
Last week, we highlighted the 10 big changes that are coming to Walt Disney World over the next few years. Whereas Disney is focusing on what it believes will be enhancements to the guest experience, Universal Orlando has a simpler strategy: build more stuff. Lots of it.
Over the coming years, we can expect a host of new rides and attractions, with Comcast promising major additions to Universal Orlando every single year. We'll also have a much greater range of options for staying in on-site accommodation.
Here's a complete round-up of the major changes we can expect to the Universal Orlando Resort as it continues to bask in the success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
6. New Hotels
Universal Orlando will seek to bolster its status as a multi-day resort destination by constructing a lot of new hotel rooms. In September 2013, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke claimed that it could fill 10,000-15,000 hotel rooms, and the company plans to do just that. "We need to get those hotel rooms open and build out the resort," said Burke.
The first step will be the opening of the 1,800-room, moderately-priced Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The resort is already taking reservations ahead of a preview opening on March 31, 2014 (of the family suites only), with the full opening set to come on July 1.
Whereas Universal Orlando's three existing hotels are aimed primarily at the high-end of the market, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is designed to be an affordable option for families. It will be themed around old-style "road trip" vacations, and will be managed on Universal's behalf by Loews Hotels & Resorts.
The fourth on-site hotel to open at Universal Orlando will be centered around two courtyards. The North Courtyard will open first, and will be themed around 1950s and 1960s motor courts. It will be surrounded by 600 family suites, each boasting a foam bed, a kitchenette, two televisions and a large bathroom. The suites will accommodate up to 6 guests.
The South Courtyard, meanwhile, will open later in July 2014 and will be surrounded by 900 standard guest rooms and a further 300 suites. Each of the standard rooms will sleep four guests and contain two queen beds.
Guests at the new resort will not receive the same perks as those at the existing Portofino Bay Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort and Hard Rock Hotel. Most significantly, they will not be equipped with unlimited Universal Express passes, which enable guests at the other resorts to skip the lines for major attractions. However, they will be able to take advantage of early entry into Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure - a particularly important perk for those visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Located on a 37-acre site next to Islands of Adventure, the new resort will be squarely in the same category as Walt Disney World's recently-opened Art of Animation Resort, which aims to compete with nearby "value" resorts such as the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando.
The construction of the new hotel marks the first time Universal Orlando has taken on Walt Disney World in the family accommodation market, as it aims to claim a greater share of the time that families spend on vacation in Orlando. It will be heavily-themed, with 50s-style rooms, lobby area, a pool and a lazy river.
It won't end there, though. Rumors have been swirling that construction work on a fifth hotel between the Cabana Bay and the Royal Pacific Resort will begin later in 2014. While this may just be speculation, given Burke's comments and Universal's recent track record of capital investment, we'd say that such a development is almost certain to take place.