Kids visiting Orlando, Florida will soon have the opportunity to break bread and bunk down with their favorite characters as Nickelodeon builds up to unveiling its branded hotel concept in early 2005. Senior VP of creation Howard Smith says the idea was borne largely from the frustration experienced by Nick employees who travel with their kids. They found traditional hotel rooms lacked kid space and parental privacy, intensifying family squabbles on the road. Nick’s own ongoing focus group research shows that kid influence on family vacation planning is growing, further bolstering the company’s conviction that there is room in the market for family-first hotels.
A natural first location since Disney, Universal and Six Flags theme parks are all in its vicinity, Orlando was host to more than 43 million visitors in 2003, and Smith calls it the ‘kid capital of the world.’
The Holiday Inn Family Suite Resort’s management group, including new investor Miller Global Properties, is footing the bill for US$20 million in renovations that will turn the existing hotel into a family destination. Additions include three-bedroom suites, a mini mall – complete with fast-food court, convenience store and live entertainment venue – and a kids spa where tykes can get haircuts and pedicures. The kids’ rooms will have bunk beds, and each bed will come equipped with its own CD player and light/TV-volume controls.
As far as décor goes, Smith says each kids room will have a wall themed around a Nick property, but the parents’ rooms and common areas will be character-free. ‘You have to be careful not to over-theme,’ he explains.
Smith says Nick plans to create similar hotels in a select number of markets, but the company is waiting to see how the first one works out before it signs any more contracts. However, Nick does intend to leverage its on-screen marketing might in the U.K. and Latin American, both of which are large tourist feeder markets to Florida. It’s quite likely that trips to Orlando will be used as prizes for future network contests.