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ORLANDO-Gaylord Palms, formerly the Opryland Hotel, has hired almost 1,400 employees at a four-day job fair that drew 12,000 applicants and highlighted one of the most successful recruiting blitzes in Central Florida’s hospitality industry.

The 1,406-room hotel and 400,000-sf convention center, being completed at an estimated hard construction cost of $404 million, is slated to open in February amidst one of the worst industry depressions on record.

Occupancies are in the 50% range and lower at many of the 460 hotels and motels in metro Orlando, according to Smith Travel Research of Hendersonville, TN. Average daily room rates are off by 40% to 60%.

Gaylord Palms’ new hires start work in December, preparing for the first-quarter debut. Colin V. Reed, CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, the parent company, confirms the hotel has bookings into 2003 for one million room nights. The hotel is one mile from the entrance to Walt Disney World.

Gaylord Palms’ recruiting success comes as Disney and Universal Orlando close hotels and attractions, lay off workers and reduce the daily number of hours for salaried employees to cope with dwindling attendance since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC.

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