The new operators of the former Sheraton hotel in downtown Orlando are hoping to inject some enthusiasm into a part of the hotel market where things aren’t going so well.
As Orlando awaits the opening of a new arena and construction of a new performing-arts center, condominiums yearn for owners and tenants. Hotels have been filling fewer than 60 percent of their rooms for three years running; last year, average occupancy for downtown hotels was just 54 percent — about the minimum needed to break even by industry standards.
Despite that, Sonesta International Hotels Corp. is pinning its hopes — and its brand — on the former Sheraton near Lake Ivanhoe and Interstate 4. The 341-room hotel struggled with debt, bankruptcy and foreclosure before it was sold last year to Resolution Services LLC and private-equity firm Glenmont Capital Management LLC.
The 25-year-old hotel’s new operators see an underserved market that is about to blossom; a lack of public awareness about the hotel and its ample meeting space; and possibilities for growth as an arts-focused property, much like the Grand Bohemian at the other end of downtown.
The downtown hotel is Sonesta’s only property in the area. The brand’s last real presence in Orlando was the Sonesta Villa Resort on Turkey Lake Road, a property that was sold to Westgate Resorts in 1993. Sonesta also made a brief foray into the local condominium-hotel market in 2005, when it agreed to be the management company for Tierra Del Sol, a resort that never materialized.