• International Plaza, OrlandoOf all the condo hotels in Orlando, there was something special about the International Plaza Resort & Spa on I-Drive. Formally a Sheraton, it converted to a condo hotel a year or two ago and has been taking reservations ever since.

    With over 1100 rooms to sell, it was always going to be a tough project but it had that special “vacation feel” which made it desirable – as well as the best location in Orlando - just a stone’s throw from the Orange County Convention Center. 

    As a hotel with a proven track record and with condo pricing beginning in the $160’s, it looked to be a surefire success story. But ultimately, its size may have been its undoing and the condotel has now cancelled all reservations, mailed back deposits to would-be buyers, and returned to regular hotel operations.

    Signs of the impending disaster became apparent when the first closings, due to begin late last year, never transpired. Familar faces on the sales team then started to disappear, leading to speculation that perhaps the project would be sold off before the first closing could be accomplished.

    I’m a little sad because I liked this place a lot, and its failure raises more questions about the condo hotel market in Orlando. To be sure, its failure says as much about current market conditions as it does about condo hotels, but one has to wonder - if a project like this can’t succeed, what chances to the others have - projects that haven’t yet broken ground, and projects that are considerably more expensive? To add to the mix, banks seem reluctant to lend money on condo hotels these days – even to U.S. nationals (if you’re a foreign national – forget it, it’s cash all the way.)

    But ultimately, when all is said and done, I still think the condo hotel concept will succeed in Orlando. It’s perfect for this town, has many advantages over time-share, and as the market improves, I think we will see the best of the mix providing a pretty good choice for those folk who want an investment and a place in the sun.

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