four seasons

Diamonds, Disney & Dollars

The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney, which opened in August, received the coveted Five-Diamond designation from AAA. The 443-room resort is the only Orlando property to have this elite recognition. Situated on 980 acres, it recently opened its Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole Tranquilo Golf Club. The resort also features five on-property restaurants and its own five-acre waterpark.

Nearby, Mickey Mouse celebrated a birthday on Nov. 18 – the iconic character turned 86. He entered the public stage in the animated short film “Steamboat Willie” in 1928.

And Mickey and company are still going strong. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts recently purchased 3,000 acres of land called Mira Lago for $11.5 million. Located in Osceola and Polk counties, the land borders the Disney Wilderness preserve. Environmentalists are happy with the transaction. In exchange for conserving the tract of land, Disney would like permission to develop 350 acres of the wetlands during the next 20 years.


In other Disney news, the Swan and Dolphin Hotel is undergoing a $125 million renovation coinciding with the property’s 25th anniversary. The multiphase, multiyear redesign project will transform every guest room in the 758-room Swan Hotel and the 1,509-room Dolphin Hotel. The entire project will be complete by the end of 2017.

Record Tourism

Florida is on pace for its fourth consecutive record year of tourism.

VISIT FLORIDA’s preliminary estimate is 23.7 million visitors came to Florida in third quarter 2014, an increase of 3.5 percent over the same period last year. Through the first three quarters of 2014, VISIT FLORIDA estimates the state welcomed 73.9 million visitors, an increase of 2.5 percent over same period last year. Visitor spending in the state from January through August, was $55.6 billion, a 7.3 percent jump from 2013.

Tourism, the state’s No. 1 industry was responsible for welcoming 94.3 million visitors in 2013 who spent $76.1 billion, generating 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing nearly 1.1 million Floridians.

There will be cause for celebration when final numbers are released in 2015.

Admission Price

The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando was host of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in November and it “attracted” 30,500 amusement park and industry professionals from 116 countries, making it the largest trade show in 17 years and the second largest in event history. The $39.5 billion global attractions industry delivers a thrilling $51.3 million economic impact to Orlando from its expo. The trade show is contracted in Orlando through 2025. Florida attractions Legoland and Busch Gardens were recipients of Brass Ring Awards during the event.

Shopping Meccas

Tourists come to Florida and tourists shop in Florida. Fortune magazine recently published the 10 top highest sales-generating malls in the United States, according to data by real estate analysis firm Green Street Advisors. Guess what state captured the No. 1 spot and three others slots? Florida. And with that, the state is home to the most lucrative malls in the nation.

Topping the list is Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour. Located just north of Miami Beach, anchored by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, the 50-year-old mall registers in with sales per square foot of $3,010.

Mall at Millenia in Orlando attracts local shoppers and tourists.

Coming in at No. 6, also in South Florida, is Aventura Mall in Aventura, north of Miami. The state’s largest shopping mall and the second largest after Mall of America in Minneapolis in terms of number of visitors with 28 million; it enjoys sales per square foot of $1,500.

No. 7 and No. 8 are in Orlando. The Mall at Millenia edged out Orlando Premium Outlets by $15 per square foot. Opened in 2002, the Mall at Millenia is anchored by Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. The 1.2 million-square-foot mall is located close to downtown Orlando and also near attractions and hotels found on the west side of Orlando. Sales per square foot are $1,400.

Orlando Premium Outlets is only two miles from Walt Disney World and has been expanded twice since opening in 2000. There are 160 stores and the sales per square foot are $1,385.

London Calling

Billed as the premier hospitality, travel and tourism fundraiser in Central Florida, the annual Grand Tour Gala was Nov. 1 at the Hilton Orlando Resort. The London-themed event honored this year’s Dick Pope Legacy Award recipients: Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports; Adrian Jones, general manager of LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and VP Merlin Entertainments USA; Richard Kessler, chairman and CEO of The Kessler Collection hotels; and Emeril Lagasse, celebrity chef and TV host of Emeril’s Florida.

Produced by UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management and the Orlando Chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), the Gala has raised more than $200,000 to date for student scholarships and programs at UCF, Valencia College, Daytona State College, Mid Florida Tech Orlando, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Educational Foundation and NACE Education Foundation.

A luxurious meeting setup at Florida’s Space Coast.

Meeting Matters

VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, conducted its annual appointment-based trade show, Florida Encounter, Dec. 3 to 5 at the Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale. The three-day event showcased Florida’s meetings, conventions and incentive industry to travel professionals around the world.