Orlando is experiencing a surge in hotel announcements. Properties are being added to the vast hotel capacity near Walt Disney World. Moreover, new hotels are being developed near Universal Epic Universe, scheduled to open in 2025, which could eventually have a direct rail link to the airport. Adding to this trend, SeaWorld, the popular aquatic theme park, is venturing into the hotel business.
In 2021, SeaWorld first announced its plans to construct hotels on its properties. Yet it wasn’t until December 2023 that the company finally filed a proposal to build a massive 504-room hotel adjacent to the Sea World theme park. The hotel is expected to be in a prime spot, offering guests direct access to the theme park.
However, in an earnings conference call in November 2023, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment CEO Marc Swanson told investors about two hotels:
On the hotel front, we also continue to make progress on our plans. As we mentioned last quarter, we are refining our design planning on our first hotels, and we expect to begin opening in 2026. We identified the locations of the first two hotels, and we’ll be offering more details about these properties soon.
We now know more details about the second hotel.
SeaWorld recently submitted plans to Orange County for a 250-room hotel next to Discovery Cove. This area is situated across the street from the main theme park and features a snorkeling reef, an aviary, and the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Discovery Cove is considered an upmarket option, with a limited number of tickets available per day. Prices start at $189, but prices that include the dolphins can exceed $400 during popular times.
The new hotel, named “Project Canopy,” is designed to blend in with the theme of Discovery Cove. The hotel will six stories and covers an area of 288,637 square feet. It’ll offer several additional amenities, such as a 7,000-square-foot meeting space and an almost 11,000-square-foot spa. The hotel will also have a 7,000-square-foot restaurant named “Tree Top Restaurant,” aligning with the “canopy” theme.
No details are provided about the operator for the two SeaWorld hotels, nor if they will be affiliated with any hotel chain. According to the Orlando Business Journal, the name “Project Canopy” could suggest the hotel’s association with the Canopy brand operated by Hilton. However, I believe it’s equally likely that the name merely references the hotel’s theme and ambiance, and having a property that evokes the feel of a rainforest would be a perfect fit for a Discovery Cove hotel.
According to the article, Hilton executives were not available to comment about whether the SeaWorld hotel would be under a Hilton brand.
It will be fascinating to observe how these two hotels, the first to be situated on a SeaWorld property in the U.S., will integrate the adjacent theme park theming into their design. If they choose to go in that direction, there’s an opening to create hotels distinct from anything else in the Orlando market.
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