Oct. 02--Hyatt Hotels wants to attract more tourists now that it has taken control of the Peabody Orlando, a mainstay among Orlando's convention hotels.
General Manager Tom Smith said Tuesday he plans to build on the reputation for service established by the Peabody during the past 27 years by using Hyatt's 14-million person Gold Passport loyalty program to draw more leisure guests to the International Drive hotel.
The Peabody was the first hotel to open next door to the giant Orange County Convention Center. It recently completed a $440 million renovation that nearly doubled its room count, to 1,641 from 891, and greatly expanded its meeting-and-convention space.
"The Peabody did such a great job -- the grotto pool, the resortlike amenities," Smith said. "We certainly want to work with the leisure market in trying to drive that."
The hotel still offers the most meeting space of any property in Hyatt's portfolio. It has been renamed the Hyatt Regency Orlando.
In transitioning from the Peabody to the Hyatt brand, the new owner kept the majority of the hotel's staff but laid off about 68 people, including top management and employees in departments such as central reservations and accounting. Last fall, the Peabody reported having 1,200 employees.
Smith said the company organized a job fair for the workers who lost their jobs, attracting 18 area hotels in search of employees.
Hyatt is crediting the remaining employees for their years of service with the Peabody, allowing them to retain their tenure in terms of vacation and other benefits within the Hyatt system. It paid $717 million for the property.
Other changes underway are minor: Coffee makers will be added to all the rooms, per Hyatt standards. And the fitness center will now be open 24 hours a day. But the famed lobby ducks, which were paraded to and from the indoor fountain each day, are a Peabody trademark and have been retired.
The hotel's lobby restaurant, the Capriccio Grill, will change its trademarked name to the Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, though the restaurant's concept will remain the same, Smith said.
One aspect of the ownership change is a bit of an undertaking: The letters in the "Peabody" sign atop the building are 7 feet tall, which presents a logistical challenge.
"It's probably going to take three days to remove all the signs," Smith said.
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