ORLANDO -- When Gaylord Entertainment Co. hosted the grand opening
of its first Florida property on Feb. 2, the $450 million,
1,406-room Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center here, the
hotel already had notched sales of more than 1 million room nights.
The property, which sports an atrium the size of Chicago's
Wrigley Field, was more than 60% presold for 2002 before it
Meetings represent 85% of the business this year, according to
Mike Mason, vice president of sales and marketing.
In fact, most of the bookings under contract are to large
meetings groups and associations through 2012.
They include the American Bus Association, which held its
Marketplace during the grand opening, drawing 2,400 delegates, and
the upcoming 35th annual Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism,
set for Aug. 11 to 13.
One group, Dallas-based Home Interiors & Gifts, had members
checking in from all over the U.S., filling the hotel Jan. 18 to
20, before the official opening, according to Mason.
The officers of the group, which had met previously in Nashville
at Gaylord's Opryland Hotel, had faith in the firm's pledge that
the new convention hotel would be able to handle the delegates.
The hotel's success, Mason said, also stems from design changes
made as a result of the findings of a preconstruction survey in
which officials asked planners what they did not like about
meetings at hotels.
As a result, clients will find:
• Eighteen front-desk positions installed for peak check-in
periods, a checkout kiosk and on-screen electronic checkout through
the room's television.
• Checkout from the convention center. Meetings attendees' baggage
can be delivered to the convention center, enabling them to check
out once the event wraps up.
• A separate check-in facility at the center for large meetings and
a designated transportation lobby, so the main lobby and hotel
entrance are not blocked.
• An increase in restaurant and bar staffs when a major convention
does not schedule a catered meal function.
• A 24-hour deli.
• A keycard-activated soda vending machine located near guest
rooms. Charges are billed to the room.
• In-room refrigerators containing orange juice and bottled water.
The cost of the beverages is covered in a $10 daily service fee,
which also includes the Walt Disney World shuttle.
• An in-room safe large enough to accommodate a laptop computer and
featuring a built-in electric outlet for recharging the
• A variety of food options. The Villa de Flora, for example,
offers a $14 soup-to-dessert lunch buffet that includes roast lamb,
sausage-and-cheese pizza, baked chicken with mushroom cream sauce
and grilled salmon with lemon caper sauce. Breakfast at Villa de
Flora costs $12, and dinner is $18. Other restaurants are Old
Hickory Steakhouse, also noted for its imported cheeses, and Sunset
Sam's Fish Camp.
• Nightly entertainment, which includes a Jimmy Buffet-style band
in the Key West area and a sunset party.
In addition, an Internet work station eventually will be
available atop every guest room desk; negotiations are in progress
with a supplier.
The hotel's winter rack rates are typically $360, single or
double, for a traditional unit, and $400 for an atrium view.
(Rates, subject to change, are reduced for groups.)
For $440, an Emerald Bay tower unit (362 rooms) is available.
Small groups housed in Emerald Bay can be self-contained because
the wing has its own meetings and catering space.
The hotel has 400,000 square feet of meetings and prefunction
space, most of which is found in the convention center. The center
has a 178,000-square-foot exhibition hall.
Mason said he has begun concentrating on leisure business. The
hotel will hire a director of tour and travel and will introduce
in-house packages and some affordable rates for motorcoach tour
groups. Travel agents also will be invited to visit.
For information, agents can call (407) 586-2000 or visit www.gaylordpalms.com.
Resort takes Florida theme
ORLANDO -- The Gaylord Palms embraces a Florida theme with the
re-creation of four areas of the state: the Everglades, Key West,
St. Augustine and the Emerald Coast (Panhandle).
The theming applies to public areas, including dining outlets
and guest buildings. The "Everglades" features cypress trees,
swamps and mechanical alligators. In "Key West," a shrimp boat
docked at an inside "marina" doubles as an oyster bar.