-- The conventional wisdom in the Orlando hotel business is that
people who stay in the area will go to the theme parks for
convention-goers, many with families in tow, who make up nearly 80%
of the guests at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center,
belie the norm.
Our guests told
us they want to spend more time in the hotel, said Suzanne Stephan,
Gaylord Palms director of marketing.
Stephan referred to were part of a focus group commissioned by
Gaylord Entertainment, the resorts owner, to determine what kinds
of activities visitors would like to pursue at the
There were some
surprising answers, and these answers became the basis for the
design of a new recreation center scheduled to open Nov.
which is in the hotels backyard, according to Stephan, consists of
several distinct areas designed for specific recreational
activities, as follows:
is a nine-hole executive putting course, a golf course in
miniature, with sand traps, roughs, water hazards -- practically
everything a full-size course has.
The idea is to
offer guests an opportunity for a quick round before the days
events or between sessions.
Nearly all of the
business travel is composed of conventions, and a significant
number of those business travelers bring their families because of
the nature of the destination, Stephan said.
The next surprise
from the focus groups was that people enjoy playing
We didnt think
people were that enthusiastic about shuffleboard anymore, said
Stephan, but we found that they are. Families like it because they
can play it together. And its easy for kids to play.
that turned out to have appeal to the Palms guests was croquet, so
the new recreation center has a croquet lawn.
We put emphasis
on things people could do as a group or a family, said Stephan.
Thats why croquet seemed to resonate well.
The focus groups
also responded well to bocce, an Italian game similar to bowling on
a lawn that is gaining popularity, according to Gaylords
We reinvented it,
said Stephan. In a lot of hotels you have clay pits, but thats a
little messy. We have a crushed coquina surface. Coquina is a
rock-like substance made of crushed shells and sediment compressed
at the bottom of the ocean. It has great resilience. It was used by
early settlers to build forts because a cannon ball would be
absorbed by it or bounce off.
center also includes a tile-floored piazza for functions, a sand
volleyball court and an infinity pool called the South Beach Pool,
designed with an art-deco theme reminiscent of Miami Beachs South
Beach. The South Beach Pool is for adults only.
The resort also
has a zero-entry pool that enables guests to wade in. It has
family-oriented features, including an octopus water slide and
water jets, as well as an adjacent sand-and-clay beach.
Cabanas will be
placed by the side of the pool, where massages and spa treatments
from the hotels trademarked Canyon Ranch Spa Club will be
We and the
Venetian in Las Vegas are the only hotels that have the Canyon
Ranch Spa Club brand, said Stephan. They also have one aboard the
QM2. So we feel as though we are in pretty good company.
Like the other
hotels in the Gaylord Hotels chain (typified by the flagship
Opryland Hotel in Nashville), the Gaylord Palms is a huge complex
with a steel-and-glass atrium.
four-and-a-half-acre atrium houses an assortment of shops and
entertainment venues as well as an exhibition that celebrates
Floridas environment and history.
The atrium is
divided into three sections.
One section is
designed around the theme of Floridas oldest city, St. Augustine,
and includes a replica of the citys historic fort, Castillo de San
A second section
celebrates the Florida Keys and includes a lagoon with 160,000
gallons of water, fish and a 60-foot sailboat and dock.
A third section
salutes the Everglades, with walkways mounted on wooden stilts, a
sawgrass shack and exhibits with baby alligators, snakes and a
19, as part of its Best of Florida Christmas Celebration, Gaylord
Palms will bring back a popular feature called Ice!, an exhibition
of statues and monuments carved from 2 million pounds of ice. The
exhibition, carved by more than 40 artisans from Harbin, China,
will run until Jan. 2.
Resort & Convention Center is located at 6000 W. Osceola
Parkway. For reservations, call (407) 586-2000. The Web site is www.gaylordhotels.com.
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].