UPDATED: AUGUST 22, 2017 12:30 PM — Legoland Florida's first two hotel ventures have been so successful, parent company Merlin Entertainments Group is planning to build at least two more hotels at the Winter Haven resort by 2024.
"We want to expand accommodations," General Manager Adrian Jones told GrowthSpotter on Friday. "It's absolutely integral to our development. One reason is it reduces volatility because people pre-book, plus it's a more immersive experience."
Jones, general manager of the theme park since before its opening in 2011, was promoted to a divisional director position in June, overseeing all of Merlin's North America attractions. He outlined the company's expansion plans during the I-4 Commercial Corridor Conference at Florida Polytechnic University.
Jones said both hotels average 92 percent occupancy and have been a key factor in the success of the resort. He said Merlin spent $100 million to build the theme park at the former Cypress Gardens site.
"The infrastructure was already there, and let's be honest, the price was right," he said.
Merlin so far has realized a 27-percent ROI at Legoland Florida. "The most important thing there is the hotel," he said. "The hotel changed the business. We're racing to get as many rooms as we can."
Jones said the new resort hotels will all be Legoland-themed properties, and the first could open by 2020. That hasn't stopped the company from embracing new hotel development in Winter Haven, particularly the new Marriott Courtyard now under construction across from the park.
"This isn't competition for me," he said. "I fully embrace the power of the Marriott brand to market Legoland internationally and in North America."
Merlin recently launched a Legoland vacations booking portal for partner hotels and vacation home resorts, and the company is expanding its North American call center in Winter Haven.
Jones also revealed a new conceptual master plan for the resort and a teaser for the company's next big attraction.
"This is hot off the press," he said. "We're looking to do a new gate attraction, maybe an aquarium."
Merlin owns SEA LIFE aquariums and Madame Toussads brands. Jones said the company is looking to expand its Lego model-making facility in Lake Wales and may add a new wax production facility there, as well.
The second annual I-4 Commercial Corridor Conference was hosted by CBC Saunders Ralston Dantlzer Realty.
This article has been updated to identify the sponsor of the conference.