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Condotels an accommodation option for Orlando golfers

By William K. Wolfrum,
Staff Writer

Condotels have become a thriving new part of the golf travel world, and top golf destinations like Orlando, Fla., are jumping into the mix.

Condotels are condominiums that are used as personal hotels, and border more on being a time share than hotel room. Condos are privately owned, but the owner can only stay for a certain amount of time per year, with the room then being rented out by an agency the rest of the year.

"What we're seeing now is companies are accumulating areas to use as condotels," Director of the Coastal Federal Center for Economic Development Gary M. Loftus said. "These condos are privately owned but bought by an agency. The owner can only stay there for a certain amount of time, and then they're rented out."

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More than a dozen condo hotels currently selling units or under construction in Orlando, with others in the beginning planning stages. Many of these new condo hotels will be created as mixed-use projects for golf courses, spas, restaurants and many other attractions.

Some of these condo hotels will be run by large, known franchises such as Sonesta, Starwood or Hilton. Still others will be run independently. Condotels give its guests the opportunity for a hotel room-type stay, but in a condo. Such amenities as kitchens and extra bathrooms help a guest feel like they never left home while on vacation.

"I've got my ear to the ground all over the country and I hear a lot of good things about condo hotels," said Rob Lawson of Tee Bone Golf. "I don't know the legal parts but I know they are gaining steam."

When not using the condotel, owners can place it in the hotel's rental program. The owner would receive a share of the revenue, which is usually about 50 percent. The on-site management handles maintenance and operation, making ownership of a condotel an easy proposition.

For golfers, especially in groups, condotels can be a blessing. With all the room and comfort of home at a good price, most golfers are more than happy to stay at a condotel rather than a normal hotel. In golf-rich places like Myrtle Beach, condotels have already gained a foothold.

"Most people are pretty up to date and a lot of people are moving towards that," Rich Willis, the golf sales manager for Myrtle Beach Tourism said. "Especially golfers, because they don't care if they are right on the beach."

The Greater Orlando area has more than 100,000 hotel guest rooms, but developers and city officials believe the area is ripe to expand even further, with condotels taking their spot on the scene.

Currently, nearly 50 million visitors make their way through Orlando, and its an area that is set up to entertain its visitors. More than 200 championship golf courses, great shopping and great fishing locations are all but a short drive from Orlando.

Orlando condo hotel units tend to be larger than in other Florida cities, according to real estate broker Bob Ostrander. This is due to the theme parks and other recreation possibilities in the area are that are directed at families.

As for price, in Orlando, you can expect to pay $400 - $700 per square foot for a condotel and can find luxury units with resort amenities starting at $350,000.

July 31, 2006

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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