TWO LARGE LOCAL HOTELS TO GET MAJOR MAKEOVERS

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Orlando Business Journal - October 20, 2006

Veteran Bob Stolz heading up the multimillion-dollar redos.

BY BOB MERVINE | STAFF WRITER

ORLANDO - Bob Stolz is ready to tackle a multimillion-dollar challenge. The 30-year veteran of the Central Florida hotel industry and president of Tampa-based Buena Vista Hospitality Group Inc. says his worldwide hotel and golf course consulting firm plans major makeovers of two resorts here.

Buena Vista Hospitality Group bought the Doubletree Club in Lake Buena Vista and the Sheraton World Orlando Resort this year with plans to spend $36

million to convert both properties into condo hotels during the next two years.

Enviable Location
Sheraton World, renamed the International Plaza Resort & Spa, is a rambling, 27-acre resort at 10100 International Drive. Stolz calls the property ideally situated between Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, next door to Sea World Orlando and its planned new water park.

He declines to reveal what Buena Vista Hospitality Group and its joint venture partner Urban America paid for the 1,100-room hotel. The deal on the 26-year-old hotel closed on Sept. 28. It last sold in 1998 for $9.9 million. The latest transaction hasn't been recorded with the Orange County Property Appraiser's office yet, but the property's taxable value currently is assessed at nearly $44 million. The firm plans to spend $30 million on the renovation.

Stolz, a former manager of both the Hotel Royal Plaza and the Buena Vista Palace hotels in Disney's Lake Buena Vista Hotel Plaza, says he's the man for the renovation job. Who better than me to do it? There's no one who knows this market better.

Plans call for a major spa addition and a 12- to 18-month renovation into a tropical-themed resort beginning next spring. Prices for the units are expected to start at just below $200,000, with a nightly rate in the $150 range. The search is also on for an outside restaurateur to take over the hotel's signature eatery with a recognizable brand name.

New Niche
The other project Stolz and company will tackle is the makeover and management of the Vista Club Hotel, formerly the Doubletree Club, at 12490 Apopka Vineland Road in Lake Buena Vista.

That project is a joint venture between Buena Vista Hospitality Group and New Boston Fund, a private real estate investment fir111 from New England. The new owners paid $15.5 million in June for the 246-room property. It also will become a condo hotel, with prices ranging from $165,000 to $235,000 per unit.

Potential customers for the Vista Club Hotel are a demographic group already coming to Orlando who don't have lodging to suit their needs. They are the 25- to 45-year-old couples with dual incomes, a BMW and a white dog, laughs the veteran hotelier.

After Hours
To attract young couples and singles with an annual income of $75,000 who travel without children, the renovated property will replace its gaudy exterior graphics with a sleek, sophisticated new $6 million design bythe South Florida-based Urbanica Group. Those customers are seeking affordable urban chic, says Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, which helped Yesawich pinpoint the potential customer demographics. This is a highly social crowd, for whom what happens after the day ends is of great import.

Stolz says Buena Vista Hospitality Group will provide the needed ambiance in renovated guest rooms with luxurious cotton sheets, signature beds, flat-panel televisions, European bath features and an iPod docking station. A large bar with specialty drinks, a restaurant focused on tapas-style snacking foods and a late-night club feeling also are part of the new mix. And the affordable part of the equation is a $125- to $175-per-night price point.

The hotel will close in early 2007 for the six-month makeover, reopening next summer.

The Vista Club Hotel will be marketed mainly online, says Yesawich, because the target customers are highly tech-savvy. His research shows that more than half of all travelers use only the Internet to plan vacations.

Condo Question
Abe Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hotel Management at the University of Central Florida, says he likes the idea of the Vista Club Hotel and its niche market appeal. But his radar goes off whenever he hears the words hotel and condo in the same sentence these days.

While the condo-hotel market in Central Florida is by no means dead, says Pizam, I become more cautious when I Pizam hear about new projects in that segment.

Pizam believes consumers also are becoming more cautious in a potentially overbuilt market, should all the proposed condo-hotel projects in the pipeline actually get constructed.

However, Pizam says Stolz's involvement in the hotel-condo conversion projects lend them huge credibility. He's a shrewd operator, says Pizam. He does his homework, and he has history here.

About Buena Vista Hospitality Group
Buena Vista Hospitality Group (BVHG), a Tampa, Florida based international resort and golf club development and management company that got its start in the early 1970s. BVHG has managed renowned projects in the U.S.A. including PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; LPGA International, home of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), Daytona Beach, Fla.; and the Buena Vista Palace Resort & Spa, Walt Disney World Village.

Internationally, the company is the developer and operator of the 36-hole TPC-Cancun project in Mexico, and the exclusive licensee of the PGA (United Kingdom) for the branding of PGA International Resorts in Europe and the UK. Buena Vista Hospitality Group has project developments in the UK, Spain and Croatia that will carry the PGA International Resort branding. Other international projects are located in France, Canada, Italy, Cyprus and the Dominican Republic. The European operations are headquartered in Central London.

BVHG has successfully provided a full range of development and management services for more than 50 hotels, resorts, golf communities and clubs globally. More information about BVHG can be found at www.bvhg.com.

For more information about the International Plaza Resort & Spa, visit the official website at www.InternationalPlazaResortAndSpa.com. For the Vista Club Hotel, visit www.VistaClubOrlando.com.

© Copyright 2009 , Buena Vista Hospitality Group

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