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Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.

The world’s theme park capital, and second-largest US hotel market, has yet to see signs of an economic downturn. However, its biggest hotel operators are watching the horizon as new guestrooms are unlocked in years to come.

“We’re cautious,” says Peter Kacheris, general manager of the Swan and Dolphin hotel resort at Walt Disney World, on Orlando’s west side. “I’ve been through eight recessions. This doesn’t feel like one just yet.”

With a combined 2,250 guest rooms, 16 onsite restaurants and direct access to Epcot, the Swan and Dolphin attract as much meeting and convention business as they do well-to-do vacationers. The hotels’ 350,000 sf of meeting space is booked up two years in advance, though Kacheris says the tough economy may impact conventioneers’ entertainment budgets, such as selecting a less-expensive wine with dinner.

“We’re not seeing business cancellations,” he says. “It’s a little bit business as usual. In fact, we’re going to have a great second half of the year.”

Orlando’s resorts may also face a new challenge from competition across the country, with other popular tourist destinations seeking to attract conventions. For example, the Mortgage Bankers Association, which brought nearly 4,000 paid attendees to its Commercial Real Estate Finance/Multifamily Housing Convention & Expo to the Swan and Dolphin in early February, is opting for Las Vegas instead of Orlando in 2010.

“They’ve (MBA members) had a lot of Orlando and they would like to try something different,” Jan Sternin, an SVP with the Washington, DC-based association, told Real Estate Florida in an interview during the convention. She added that other Orlando sites could be considered for 2012 and beyond.

In an effort to attract conventions beyond the theme parks, hotel developers are building new projects near the city’s expanded convention center, including the 12-story Westin Imagine Orlando scheduled to open April 3. The 315-room hotel is the only one expected through the rest of 2008, with more than 3,000 new rooms under construction throughout the area that are expected to join an existing capacity of approximately 111,000 rooms.

“I think there is still tremendous growth opportunity for Orlando,” says Gary Sain, president and CEO of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We used to be largely known for theme parks. Now we offer the best of all worlds.”

Kacheris observes that vacationers aren’t likely to let a bad economy cancel their plans, while any convention fallout from the construction and mortgage industries will likely be more than made up by technology and medical groups — two growing segments of Orlando’s economy.

Even with more luxury hotels in the city’s future, including a 500-room Waldorf-Astoria at Disney World scheduled to open next fall, he says that concerns about overcapacity are minimal. “The demand is still outstripping the supply,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

Sain notes that many travelers to Orlando are booking their trips closer to the last minute, which tends to make long-range projections difficult. However, he says this year’s first quarter continued the momentum of what he termed as a “great” 2007, with favorable bookings projected this month.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a very good year,” Sain says. “At the end of the day, I think Orlando will fare better than other destinations.”

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