Donna Waller-Antoine, a senior sales manager at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld with decades of hospitality experience, says competition for hotels in the city is brutal. In fact, she says only in Las Vegas has she experienced such a competitive climate.
So what makes the DoubleTree stand out? With three conference centers on its property and 1,020 guest rooms, the world’s largest DoubleTree is equipped to host groups of any size. The 100,000-plus square feet of meeting space can be used by one large group or separated to host multiple groups simultaneously without interference. If that’s not enough space, the second-largest convention center in the country—Orange County Convention Center—is less than a mile from the DoubleTree.
Buildings on the 28-acre property include a tower, which has the Tower Conference Center on the first two floors and 800 guest rooms above; 19 villas with guest rooms; the Palms Conference Center; and the DoubleTree Conference Center, which shares a building with the lobby and restaurants.
The Palms Conference Center and DoubleTree Conference Center each have street entrances and ample parking, and the Palms has a loading dock for event load-in and load-out. It also has a separate kitchen that has been used as a kosher kitchen for groups.
Recently, the hotel transformed one of its pools into a lawn event space that can accommodate up to 1,100 guests. Waller-Antoine says this space is used by groups for late-night events often, and guests in those groups are housed in the villas surrounding the lawn.
The resort has two pools, with one designated for families and surrounded by recreation amenities like pingpong. Roughly half of the hotel’s revenue comes from families and the remaining half comes from groups. Eighty percent of the rooms are doubles.
The hotel was named a Certified Autism Center resort in September.
Getting to the DoubleTree from the airport is a straight shot—the drive is only about 15 minutes. The hotel is also near SeaWorld, with a direct walkway that’s less than a mile long. DoubleTree has an Expedia office on-site where theme park tickets and excursions can be booked, and the property has an on-site UPS Store.
Waller-Antoine says the I-RIDE Trolley is a popular form of transportation, especially for budget-conscious groups that wish to travel to a meal, shopping or a theme park. Riding the trolley, which travels International Drive—a corridor lined with restaurants and resorts and flanked on either side by outlet malls—costs $2.
Meals are available on-site as well. A stay at the DoubleTree begins with the warm chocolate chip-and-walnut cookies famous to the brand. Laguna, a full-service restaurant, has seating on multiple levels for up to 300 diners. The breakfast buffet at Laguna opens at 6:30, and the restaurant serves lunch and dinner as well. Two on-site bars, Sonoma and Barefoot Bar, serve beverages and light fare. The Market prepares Starbucks drinks, sells gourmet snacks and drinks, and is home to Alberto’s Pizzeria.
Seating options and areas where guests can congregate, eat or sit for intimate conversations are plentiful across the property. Despite the resort’s massive size, the intentional landscaping and design result in private nooks across the grounds.
Waller-Antoine says she has booked many couples’ retreats because planners are looking for intimacy but also capacity for many couples.
She’s also booked groups and created customized experiences like baptisms in the swimming pools and late-night ice cream sundaes on the lawn. In the past year, groups from the Hispanic Church of God, Seventh-day Adventists and Progressive Missionary Baptist Church have met at the DoubleTree, among others. The property is used for citywides often in winter months, with breakout sessions from Orange County Convention Center events taking place in the DoubleTree’s ballrooms.