2020 was a difficult year for Orlando. The coronavirus brought a two-handed hammer down on the city, with a decrease in leisure traffic to the themepark capital of the world, combined with the obliteration of the convention business which, along with international travel that came to a standstill, was the engine to the International Drive area. Every type of customer is traveling less and that’s taken a huge toll on the local economy that depended on those tourists.
At the beginning of the pandemic. one of the first non-theme-park hotels to close down was the Hyatt Regency Orlando. Some people will remember this as the former Peabody Orlando. The 1,641-room hotel has prime real estate, located adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center while featuring its own 315,000 square feet of meeting space. With no conventions and the themeparks closed, the hotel shut down in March 2020 and stayed closed until June.
The reopening coincided with when nearby Universal Orlando welcomed guests back, with Walt Disney World following soon thereafter. Still, typical convention guests weren’t coming back. In fact, the major use of the Convention Center property has been as a COVID-19 testing site. Most recently, it has also become the largest COVID-19 vaccination location in the region.
Seeing any group willing to book a major event and guaranteeing hotel room nights would seemingly be a good thing for Orlando. However, that’s not how many people on Twitter view it with cries to “Boycott Hyatt” are gaining momentum.
Last month, we saw a similar movement when Loews Hotels backed off hosting an event sponsored by Senator Josh Hawley. In that case, it was a smaller event marketed as a Family Getaway with the money raised going to a Missouri Political Action Committee. Although it was not sanctioned by Universal Orlando, having it on the resort property and therefore being linked to the parks might have had something to do with uninviting the senator.
CPAC is much bigger and the room block at the Hyatt is sold out, with guests being siphoned out to other area hotels that are undoubtedly happy to get the business. This will bring guests to the area in numbers not seen in almost a year. Local restaurants and even the attractions in the area will undoubtedly see an uptick in revenue from the guests.
And it’s not as if CPAC is coming to Orlando because it’s a friendly area. Orange County voted for Joe Biden by a 60-37 margin. Orange County is represented in the House by Val Demmings (D), one of the impeachment managers in the first trial and the current Orange County Mayor is her husband, Jerry Demmings.
Orange County has also had a mask mandate in place since June 2020 and has no plans on removing it anytime soon, much to the chagrin of many CPAC attendees. Even if the county didn’t have such a mandate, Hyatt has its own masking rules in place, which supposedly will be enforced over the weekend.
So I’m glad to see that the Hyatt Regency Orlando is finally able to book a large convention.
I’m just not thrilled about who’s paying for it and what they stand for.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary