Walt Disney World welcomed the first guests to its newest hotel Thursday morning, after a quick character-and-confetti-filled ceremony.
Disney World President Meg Crofton framed the opening of the $350 million Art of Animation Resort as a jolt for the Orlando economy. She told the story of a local firm hired to work on the hotel's construction that was able to add 15 new employees because of the work. Disney subsequently hired the firm again to work on its $425 million Fantasyland expansion in the Magic Kingdom.
Disney says the new hotel, which will have just under 2,000 rooms upon buildout, will support 750 permanent jobs, on to top of 800 temporary construction jobs.
"Were Disney's Art of Animation Resort a standalone business, the number of jobs would place it among the largest employers in Central Florida," Crofton said.
The first phase of the hotel, themed to the Pixar film "Finding Nemo," includes 320 budget-priced suites with room for up to six people. The suites are priced at slightly more than the price of two standard rooms in one of Disney's "value" hotels, the cheapest of its three resort categories.
The hotel's first guest showed up at 4:30 this morning, Disney officials said.
A "Cars"-themed phase, with 480 suites, will open June 18 and a "Lion King" wing, with 320 suites, follows Aug. 10. The hotel's fourth and final phase — 864 conventional hotel rooms themed to "The Little Mermaid" — will open Sept. 15.
Before today, Disney had only 215 so-called "family suites" among its roughly 26,000 hotel rooms and time-share suites. The new hotel "is responding to a market trend of families traveling together," Crofton said.
Tied to such specific movies and characters, Art of Animation differs from most of Disney World's other hotels, which generally have broader themes — such as a Polynesian village or New Orleans' French Quarter.
"I think the beauty of our resort is that we offer a variety" of accommodations, Crofton said. Some guests, she added, "really enjoy being immersed in the worlds of our animated films."
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Disney opens first phase of $350 million Art of Animation Resort
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