Walt Disney World is converting some of its 25,000 hotel rooms into moderately priced, princess-themed rooms and high-end, "health-and-wellness" suites, in a bid to carve out new niches from within its existing hotels.
Disney also expects the specialty rooms to deliver higher nightly rates than conventional hotel rooms by attracting vacationers willing to pay a premium for select amenities — be it a Princess-and-the-Frog-themed headboard or an in-room yoga session.
With the new hotel rooms, Disney is, perhaps not surprisingly, placing its biggest bet on the company's well-known lineup of princesses.
Disney says it plans to transform about a quarter of the 2,000 rooms in the "Riverside" section of Disney's Port Orleans Resort into "Royal Rooms." Billed as rooms that the princesses themselves have stayed in during vacations, they will include many nods to the animated heroines, from bathroom faucets in the shape of Aladdin's genie lamp to the footstool that came to life as a dog in Beauty in the Beast.
It's a concept Disney has dubbed "storybook" hotel rooms — rooms that are more lavishly themed than conventional hotel rooms and are devoted to key company franchises. The company previously converted a wing of rooms in Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort to a pirates theme, and those have proven so popular that the resort has been able to charge a $30-a-night premium for them.
Disney says the 512 Royal Rooms will open to guests in February or March of next year. They will debut the same year that Disney World begins opening a multiyear expansion of the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland section, in which central additions will be based on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves — all princess movies.
In addition, Disney is banking on the princess makeover to ensure that travelers remain willing to pay a premium to stay at Port Orleans, which, like Caribbean Beach, is priced as a "moderate" resort, Disney's middle tier. Those rooms will be among the most vulnerable to losing business to the new Art of Animation Resort, a lower-priced, "value" hotel. Art of Animation, which will have 1,120 family suites and 864 regular rooms, will open in phases beginning in May 2012.
Disney is also developing new plans for the suites in its deluxe hotels — beginning with 23 in Disney's Contemporary Resort that will be refurbished to attract health-conscious travelers. Disney says it will convert the entire 14th floor of that hotel to a health-and-wellness theme, complete with a private yoga studio, custom-designed menus, and concierge services.
The rooms themselves will be outfitted with amenities such as bamboo floors, low-allergen pillows and mattresses, exercise equipment and massage tables. Disney says it expects the suites to open by November.