|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 10, 2010--For a second time this week, plans have been disclosed for a new hotel in the Orlando market.
Drury Hotels, a family-owned lodging chain with roots in the Midwest, said it is making a foray into Florida with a hotel at Interstate 4 and Sand Lake Road. It hopes to open on the site by the spring of 2012.
The 236-room Drury Inn & Suites is to be built on a parcel by the end of the westbound I-4 exit ramp at Sand Lake, not far from Universal Orlando and International Drive. The company, which has about 130 hotels in 20 states, hopes the Orlando property will help it extend its brand farther into the Southeastern U.S.
"It's a great site for people coming in for the attractions, but it's also a great site for the commercial business in Orlando," said Alison Casler, Drury's director of training and communications. Orlando is "a great location and a great place to start with our expansion."
When Drury started its hotel business in the 1970s, it targeted highway travelers in need of a convenient, clean place to stay, Casler said. That's still the chain's focus, though it also has placed hotels in key destinations, such as the French Quarter of New Orleans and near the River Walk in San Antonio.
St. Louis-based Drury is hoping its all-inclusive rates prove popular with families visiting Orlando; the hotel offers such free amenities as hot breakfasts, an hour of long-distance phone calls each night, wireless Internet access, and drinks and snacks in the evenings.
"People perceive that as being a good value, even though to the hotel it doesn't cost that much," said Scott Smith, an instructor in the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
Smith likened Drury to Red Roof Inns, a chain that was able to translate a strong brand recognition among Midwesterners into a rapid expansion in major cities across the country.
Because it's relatively unknown in Florida, Drury's success in the ultra-competitive Orlando market may depend on what it has to offer travelers, Smith said.
"If this is kind of an up-and-coming hotel brand that is kind of the hot concept -- they have something unique -- it's a wise move," Smith said. "If they haven't done their homework, they might be into some trouble."
On Wednesday, the Legacy Cos. of Orlando said it's developing a 129-room Courtyard by Marriott on the headquarters campus of Orlando-based Darden Restaurants. The hotel, on John Young Parkway near Taft Vineland Road, will provide lodging for Darden's employee-training programs but will also be open to the public.
Sara K. Clarke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5664.
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