|By Jerry W. Jackson, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 31, 2005 - Orange Lake Resort & Country Club in Kissimmee is building a $50 million, 12-acre recreational complex and more villas on its sprawling time-share property in Kissimmee.
Called River Island, the site will span 12 acres in Orange Lake's East Village, one of three distinct vacation villages at the resort off U.S. Highway 192.
Now under construction and scheduled for completion in early 2006, River Island will boast more than 27,000 square feet of water recreation features, including two wade-in pools, waterfalls and a lazy river.
Anchoring the complex will be a 30,300-square-foot clubhouse with retail shops, indoor and outdoor activities, a restaurant, fitness area and other amenities. Overlooking River Island in the first phase will be an eight-story building with a number of vacation villas and four-bedroom penthouse suites.
Orange Lake, spread across 1,250 acres of former orange groves, is the largest single-site time-share resort in the nation. It has more than 2,000 villas, suites and studios owned by more than 100,000 individuals and families from all 50 states and more than 120 countries. It employs more than 1,500 people.
Located four miles from Walt Disney World, Orange Lake Resort was founded in 1982 by the late Kemmons Wilson, a legendary entrepreneur who started the Holiday Inn chain. He died in 2003 at age 90.
Spence Wilson, chairman of the board of Orange Lake and a member of the Memphis, Tenn.-based founding family, said that with the pending completion of River Island, longtime Orange Lake President Charlie Swan III has retired.
Swan, who had headed Orange Lake since 1991 when it had only 740 villas and suites, is succeeded by veteran hospitality industry leader Don Harrill. He is the former president and chief executive of Trendwest Resorts and Hilton Grand Vacations Co., and before that spent more than 20 years with Hilton Hotels Corp.
$20 MILLION MAKEOVER: The Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld is gearing up for a $20 million makeover next year. The renovation ranges from the complete refurbishment of the Crystal and Coral ballrooms to upgraded bedding in the guest rooms. The hotel also plans to open a full-service spa in 2007.
"The renovation will emphasize special touches that offer guests a sense of place and a means to enjoy their destination while traveling for business," general manager Ralph Schmitz said in a statement.
BUSINESS AIRFARES EASE: With fuel prices soaring and the holiday season approaching, leisure travelers are starting to grumble about higher fares. But business travelers, far from feeling the pain, are enjoying one of the longest periods of generally falling prices in recent memory.
The average one-way business fare has fallen 36 percent over the past three years, to $431 last month from $676 in September 2002, according to Harrell Associates, a New York company that analyzes air fares. And the decline has accelerated each year, with prices dropping by an average $34 in 2003, $75 in 2004 and $137 this year.
Here is the bad news: The sustained drop in business fares probably cannot last. Prices will undoubtedly rise in the short term. Runzheimer International, a management consulting firm in Rochester, Wis., predicts companies will spend 12 percent more on airfares in 2006. Phyllis Schumann, a Runzheimer analyst, says business fares have "hit bottom."
Then again, she hastens to add, she could be wrong. At the very least, the price gyrations in the weeks and months ahead could be uneven.
Information from The New York Times was used in this report.
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
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