With many more visitors streaming into Islands of Adventure since the 2010 opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it was probably inevitable that Universal Orlando would expand its hotel accommodations. The resort announced that it would build its fourth on-site hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The 1,800-room property is set to open in 2014.
As with its other hotels, Universal is partnering with Loews Hotels & Resorts. Unlike the three existing properties, which offer high-end experiences (and are all wonderful), the retro-themed Cabana Bay will be geared more to value-conscious vacationers. Guests will be able to participate in all of Universal's on-property benefits (such as early park admission) with one glaring exception: the complimentary front-of-the-line ride access -- an incredible amenity -- that Universal's current hotel patrons receive will not be included in the new hotel's rates. Like Disney World's new Art of Animation Resort, many of the Cabana Bay Resort's room configurations will be family suites that will accommodate six guests -- an option that makes lots of sense in a market that attracts multi-generational families and other large groups.
With the recent opening of the Despicable Me attraction (which replaced the Jimmy Neutron ride), a new parade, and a new nighttime lagoon show, it's likely that the original Universal Studios Florida theme park will see a modest attendance increase this year. But the resort's plans to expand its Harry Potter attractions should cast a spell of good fortune and really drive a whole bunch of additional muggles through the turnstiles. In that context, the new hotel is surely part of Universal's master plan and its optimistic growth forecast.