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Orlando enticing South Floridians to take a staycation

November hotel occupancy down 56%, according to Visit Orlando
Two princesses pose at Gaylord Palms' Pirates and Princess Weekend in Orlando.
Posted at 7:54 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 12:08:37-05

ORLANDO, Fla. — According to Visit Orlando, in November of 2020 hotel occupancy was down 56%, and now venues across the city are getting creative in order to entice South Floridians to make the drive up the Turnpike.

As actors playing pirates clashed their swords and princesses sang, Niko Nickalaou, creative director for special events at Gaylord Hotels, said "We design these shows to be socially distant."

Nickalaou hopes you’ll consider a road trip a few hours away.

The team is working hard to attract South Floridians to take staycations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What we look at overall is how do we offer something so unique that's different," Nickalaou said.

The annual Pirate & Princess Weekends are at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando now through mid-March. The idea is to appeal to kids through colorful stories and parents with a speakeasy.

"[What parents consider is] how, do I get a couple of moments to myself, and how do we get the kids to enjoy something where they're entertained?" Nickalaou said.

At Walt Disney World, there’s the fifth annual Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts celebrating the art of visual creation, performances, and the culinary arts.

"[You can] learn how to draw some of their favorite characters," said Kartika Rodriguez, the general manager of EPCOT Operations.

During the special event, you'll have the opportunity to taste art as food.

"The finished product is absolutely visually stunning and delicious," Rodriguez said.

Her favorite part?

"I like the paint by number mural. I think that's a fun way to be involved and feel like, hey, there is a piece of my art that is still here and being on display at the festival," said Rodriguez.

Universal Studios announced Thursday their annual Marti Gras Celebration will start in early March.

All to get people to stay and play in Orlando. But it is an uphill battle.

Visit Orlando reports that the hotel occupancy rate in November of 2019 was 77%. The same time in 2020, it was 34%, down 56% from the prior year.

This Thanksgiving, Visit Orlando said hotel occupancy was near 40%. To compare, Discover the Palm Beaches said our local occupancy rate was near 50%.

For Christmas, the Palm Beaches grew to 55%, while Orlando stayed flat.

For New Year's Eve week, Palm Beach County grew over 65% and Orlando had an upswing to over 50%.

But then comes a dip.

Industry insiders, who don’t wish to be identified, said that January and February are typically convention season for hotels because of the weather, and those are practically non-existent this year. Some resorts in Orlando reporting early January numbers with occupancy as low as 3%.

Tourism leaders hope the numbers will rebound as spring break approaches, the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed more widely, and the summer vacation season gets underway.

For now, they are hoping you'll take a socially distant staycation.

"That's really important for this time is that you're still able to create memories that you may of not had," said Nickalaou.

Palm Beach Hotel Deals from Discover The Palm Beaches

PGA National just announced a Winter Flash Sale where travelers can receive 20% off through March 31, 2021.

The Brazilian Court’s “A Key to Paradise” Package

Available through April 2021, the Palm Beach boutique property has launched A Key to Paradise,” an extended stay package tailored to those looking to stay one to six months in paradise, while also social distancing with the comforts and privacy of a home away from home. Monthly starting rates for one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom suites are $17,000+ in November and at $23,000+ from December to April 2021. A co-working space that comes complete with privacy pods and a "Business Butler” to assist with tasks like printing and scanning add to the property’s socially distanced-friendly layout, contactless housekeeping and one-of-a-kind concierge services. Multiple entrances and discreet exits offer guests the ability to access every suite without entering the central lobby or elevators. For children, the hotel has curated twice-weekly, off-site activities for fun and educational experiences. Committed to providing a safe environment and the highest standards of cleanliness, this was also the first hotel in all of Palm Beach County to receive GBAC STAR™ accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council The property has implemented a dedicated leader of risk management on-site to further ensure full compliance with new prevention protocols and guidelines.

The Colony Hotel’s “‘Welcome Home’ to the Colony” Package

Experience this pink-hued retreat, just steps from Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean with The Colony’s “Welcome Home” package. Specially fitted for a lux long-term stay, this offer includes daily breakfast for two, complimentary parking for one car, uniquely customized Matouk bed linens and a monogrammed towel set. Personalized linens and towels will be placed in the room or suite in advance of guests’ arrival, and rooms will be serviced at their convenience and comfort. Both Matouk bed linens and towels are the guests’ property post-visit and can serve as a keepsake to recall their time in Palm Beach. A minimum stay of 30 nights at rack rate is required, and custom monogramming, thread selections and specifications must be made 30 days in advance of the desired check-in date. This package is valid through spring 2021 with rates starting at $270 per night. Full room and tax are due 30 days before arrival and are non-refundable.

Boca Raton Resort & Club’s Oceanside Edu-cation

The stunning resort property has launched “Oceanside Edu-cation,” an interactive enrichment and educational program for families aimed to make distanced learning easier for everyone. As part of this unique program, the Resort has created custom-designed Edu-cation suites at its Boca Beach Club. The vibrant suites, which connect to adjoining guestrooms, provide families with a private environment for their kids that inspires learning, creativity and fun. Each suite features five distinct areas for learning and productivity including Tutor Zone, Heads Down Zone, Lounge Zone, Invisible Zone, & the Rocker Zone. The Resort’s Edu-cation Concierge curates hands-on extracurricular activities both on and off-property, such as surf lessons, boat and fishing charters, golf and tennis clinics, and day trips geared towards all age groups. Enrichment activities are priced a la carte and can be reserved directly with the Edu-cation Concierge. The Oceanside Edu-cation suite is available as an add-on to a two-night overnight stay at the Resort, starting at $199 per day. Rooms at the Boca Beach Club start at $499 per night.