May 9, 2017 – Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO — even Craigslist has gotten in on the act. Pricey billboard ads promoting vacation rental homes line I-4 near Disney World, and US 192 is dotted with vacation rental home sales offices. Amenities in these homes range from barebones to Michael Jackson-like mansions with laser mazes, escape rooms, giant waterslides, and motorized carnival rides. Area hotels have been feeling the pressure as thousands of vacationers turn to these self-catered homes to enjoy their own pools, kitchens and anywhere from 4-14 bedrooms for anywhere from $49 to over $2,000 per night. As of this writing, Central Florida boasts more than 120,000 hotel rooms, but in recent years, over 13,000 vacation rentals have sprouted up — offering the equivalent of as many 52,000 more rooms — putting a sizable dent in the hotel industry’s market share.
Scott Smith, a hospitality instructor at the University of South Carolina who spent more than twenty years working in the hotel industry, noted: “This is absolutely, positively a game-changer. … About 65 percent of all hotel stays are based on leisure travel — and that’s where hotels might start seeing booking numbers slip.”
Several vacation rental companies have consistently made it undeniably more attractive to rent a luxury home in the Orlando area than to even stay in one of the area’s mega resorts. One such standout is Orlando Area Luxury Rentals, a service-oriented property management company that caters to a unique niche within the vacation home rental market in that it only manages highly-themed, unusually eccentric mansions aimed at sleeping families and groups as large as 50 people.
One of their properties is a 62-acre private island in Clermont named “The Ever After Estate.” It was featured on HGTV’s “Most Outrageous Homes In America” and boasts its own indoor slide, indoor rock climbing, 4 video game arcades, 3 kitchens, indoor and outdoor theaters, and a mini golf course. There’s also The Great Escape Lakeside, featured in The Guinness Book of World Records, which attempts to outdo its sister property with such over-the-top amenities as human bowling, a lazy river, an enormous waterslide, and the world’s first residential laser maze and escape room puzzle. Company President Andrew Greenstein boasts: “We’ve actually had clients fly in from Europe and spend their entire vacation at our property … never leaving to experience ANY other Florida attractions at all!”
Just how many people are choosing homes like these over hotels? Enough that Orlando Area Luxury Rentals reports having some bookings all the way out through Christmas of 2019. OALR executive manager Ginger Howard says: “We aim to give our clients unique experiences that hotels and other Orlando vacation rentals cannot provide. From the moment a guest contacts us through their check-in, check-out, and their after-stay needs, we make sure they have a contact who is always available to help — and is just a moment away.”
With service like that and amenities that make renting these homes like having your very own private theme park, there seems to be very good reason why so many vacationers are choosing to rent homes in Orlando rather than stay in area hotels.