New non-Disney owned hotel coming to Walt Disney World

Is another new hotel heading to Walt Disney World? It would seem like the answer is not if, but when.

Rumors of a new tower coming to the Swan and Dolphin Hotels & Resort at Walt Disney World are gaining in volume with the intent to build confirmed by resort executives. It’s believed that the resort is planning to add 350 rooms and suites in a new boutique hotel tower. The Swan & Dolphin is currently the only non-Disney hotel licensed to operate on Disney property.

According to reports in local media, Tishman, a hotel and real estate company, will build and own the building. Tishman currently owns the Swan and Dolphin, with both hotels branded under Starwood names (The Dolphin is Sheraton and Swan is Westin). Starwood and Marriott recently merged, but no brand changes are expected.

The new tower is likely to have a third brand that represents a unique boutique luxury design. One rumor is it will be a high-end boutique brand like Marriott’s Kessler, but Kessler reps are on record as denying that.

Tishman confirms they are exploring an expansion project, but maintains they have not finalized plans, yet alone which companies will be involved.

There’s not much more to go on now than refusal to comment from hotel management and some balloons that were spotted on property adjacent to the existing Swan and Dolphin property. The balloons are used to check line-of-sight from within nearby Disney theme parks to prevent visual intrusion into the parks. In this case the balloons were first spotted over the Fantasia Gardens tennis courts in 2016. It looks like that will be the location for the new tower.

The two existing towers at the Swan and Dolphin were designed by postmodernist architect Michael Graves, a favorite of then Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Graves passed away in 2015, so any new tower would have to be designed by another architect firm.

Rumors about a new tower comes after the news that the Swan and Dolphin resort is nearly finished with a multi-year remodeling project. Every room has been upgraded and the finishing touches are being done on the Dolphin public spaces with some work coming soon to the smaller Swan lobby as well.

The Swan and Dolphin current does a large convention business hosting many large events throughout the year. It is also a favorite of many Walt Disney World fans who want to be close the magic, but use their Starwood points for the trip. The hotel is also known for its many fine dining establishments and it’s yearly Food and Wine Classic.


5 thoughts on “New non-Disney owned hotel coming to Walt Disney World

  1. Steve Soares

    “The Swan & Dolphin is currently the only non-Disney hotel licensed to operate on Disney property.”???

    What about the hotels on Hotel Blvd near Disney Springs? That’s Disney property.

    1. Disney Mike

      Isn’t the Four Seasons also on Disney property? They tore out half of two golf courses to build it.

  2. Werner Weiss

    “One rumor is it will be a high-end boutique brand like Marriott’s Kessler, but Kessler reps are on record as denying that.”

    Kessler is not Marriott brand. Kessler is a hotel company, somewhat analogous to Tishman Hotels. Kessler properties are usually branded with Marriott’s Autograph Collection, while Tishman uses a number of brands from different companies.

    When the Swan and Dolphin opened, Aoki Corporation’s Westin and ITT Sheraton were entirely separate, unrelated companies. Eventually both became part of Starwood Hotels and its SPG loyalty program. Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, but, so far, the legacy Marriott brands and legacy Starwood brands still have two separate reservation system and two separate (although somewhat linked) loyalty programs.

    With its acquisition of Starwood, Marriott now has 30 brands, a number of which represent luxury and near-luxury properties. Several brands emphasize individuality rather than standardization. The Swan and Dolphin complex is marketed as a one entity, and their Westin and Sheraton affiliations are largely hidden. It’s likely the rumored tower would also be marketed as part of the complex. It might make sense for Tishman to affilate the entire complex with a single brand such as Marriott/Starwood’s Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, or Luxury Collection, or even Hilton’s Curio.

    “Graves passed away in 2015, so any new tower would have to be designed by another architect firm.”

    Projects on the scale of the rumored 350-room resort are often in the planning stage for years before they proceed. Although Michael Graves died, Michael Graves Architecture & Design, his firm, did not die with him. Not only could this firm be involved, it’s even possible that that Michael Graves himself had input before his death.

    I hope that the tower will “play nicely” with the Swan and Dolphin. In the hands of the right architect, the new tower could look as if it was always meant to be there. In the hands of the wrong architect, it could be awful.

  3. Ted

    I would think that Disney would see more profit from a hotel that they fully own and operate. This seems an odd choice for the mouse.

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