Epcot may be the location of Walt Disney World’s first in-park hotel, with the potential hotel being located somewhere at the edge of the park in Future World. If rumors are to be believed, the hotel could be added at Epcot’s entrance adjacent to the monorail station or on a backstage plot between the Seas and the Land pavilions.
In this post, we’ll share our thoughts on these rumored Walt Disney World hotel proposals, including the pros and cons of an in-park Epcot hotel, and offer some comparisons to (potentially) similar hotels at Tokyo DisneySea, Disneyland Paris, and the Grand Californian. (Technically, none of these hotels are inside of their respective parks, but they’re all treated as if they are since they are on the “border” and look directly into the parks.)
For starters, we’re going to assume that the park entrance hotel is what, if anything, gets the greenlight. While it’s entirely possible the Land/Seas hotel is built instead (or both are built), the ramifications of a park entrance hotel are far greater. (While a lovely hotel, few people consider the impact the Grand Californian has on DCA, and we’d assume that would be a similar scenario here.)
It’s also safe to assume that this hotel is being designed in tandem with the previously announced re-imagining of Future World; we would hope this means that any hotel that comes to fruition will feature stylization that meshes with the redesigned entrance and Future World as a whole.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the hotel would debut at the same time. In fact, with several hotel projects already in the pipeline and no actual progress on the previously-announced Star Wars Hotel, an opening date of 2021 or later seems realistic. It’s likely the Future World project, or at least the redesign and placemaking components, will wrap up before then.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard of a potential hotel at Epcot. As WDWThemeParks’ rumor tracker shows, there have been rumblings about it for a while on WDWMagic. The info has also come from historically-reliable sources, including Martin and WDW1974. Now, WDWNT is lending further credence to rumors of the hotel (or, hotels).
We have no reason to doubt the veracity of these rumors. As Epcot is on the cusp of a massive redesign and expansion that will undoubtedly spike its popularity, it seems logical that Walt Disney World would want to throw a hotel or two into the mix.
Allocating some of the overhaul’s budget to hotels–strong, direct revenue centers–could make the massive investment into Epcot more palatable. Moreover, unlike new attractions, when it comes to rumors of more hotels or Disney Vacation Club at Walt Disney World, history has taught me to always believe the rumor until proven otherwise, ha!
Depending upon your level of cynicism, an Epcot hotel might sound like a blatant cash grab. Yet another hotel by a resort complex with an ever-growing fixation on building more hotels and timeshares. My immediate counter to that is that Walt Disney World will need more hotels come 2020 (and beyond).
Occupancy is already high; Star Wars land and other additions will only make it higher. So unless you want demand pushing pricing even higher–to stratospheric levels–you might not want to be so averse to hotel construction. As long as Disney continues adding capacity to the parks, improving infrastructure, and does a better job of distributing crowds (and all three are a work in progress), more hotels poses no problem.
My more nuanced counter is that this hotel could itself be an asset to Epcot. There’s the point that this might move Epcot closer to the mixed-use community Walt Disney initially envisioned for E.P.C.O.T., albeit with tourists replacing residents. No offense, but that vision of E.P.C.O.T. is deader than EPCOT Center, so I don’t view that point as too compelling.
What I do view as compelling is how the Epcot hotel could be used to enhance the entrance area from a thematic perspective to enhance Future World or help increase the wow-factor of standing in front of Spaceship Earth for the first time.
From an aesthetic perspective, the hotel could be used to extend whatever style and visual motif is used during the re-imagining of Future World. Think of it as a potential use of the ‘borrowed scenery’ style–somewhat akin to what’s happening with the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge rockwork and the Rivers of America at Disneyland.
Or, more to the point, how the facade of Hotel MiraCosta’s facade doubles as part of Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea. That port has the appearance of incredibly pretty buildings lining its walkways, but in reality, it’s all the hotel. It’s a brilliant dual-use, and having part of this be a revenue-generating hotel no doubt helped justify the lavish design.
Likewise, at both Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea, the ‘wow-factor’ concept is executed brilliantly. In both cases, the hotel conceals the park’s main icon (Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in France and Mount Prometheus in Japan) and there’s a big reveal once you pass under the hotel and enter the park. Think of the effect as akin to walking under the train station at Magic Kingdom and seeing Cinderella Castle. Same idea.
Hotel MiraCosta is probably the better example in this instance, as here you’ll be able to see Spaceship Earth when riding around the monorail (just as you can see Mount Prometheus at DisneySea), but there’s still a sense of awe when you walk through the breezeway at Hotel MiraCosta and Mount Prometheus is revealed. Given the grandiosity of Spaceship Earth, that feeling could be even more pronounced at Epcot. This is a lot of theoretical optimism, but there are also plenty of concerns about an Epcot hotel or hotels…
I’ve seen some criticism that if this occurs, guests arriving via car wouldn’t have the same view of Spaceship Earth. My response is a pretty flippant who cares? There’s nothing inspirational or remotely magical about a parking lot, and delaying the reveal of Spaceship Earth for those visitors until they arrive in the park seems like a significantly better approach. Sure, people may enjoy the view of Spaceship Earth while driving into the lot, and have fond memories of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the better experience. That just means it’s the familiar one.
A bigger concern for me would be the sight-lines looking back towards Spaceship Earth from World Showcase. Presently, Spaceship Earth towers over the rest of Future World, as something of a beacon of progress, world unity, or what-have-you. Having a huge hotel as its backdrop would diminish this view.
However, it seems there’s a way to have the best of both worlds. So long as the hotel isn’t a tower, perspective distortion should allow it to block the view of Spaceship Earth from much of the parking lot and tram area, while also making the hotel ‘disappear’ below Spaceship Earth from a more distant area–such as World Showcase.
The big question thus becomes whether Walt Disney World would undertake such care when designing and building a hotel at the entrance to Epcot. To be honest, recent hotel projects aren’t exactly reassuring. Bay Lake Tower’s height detracts from the Contemporary’s A-frame. The Villas at Grand Floridian don’t match the size of the original buildings. Blandness aside, the Coronado Springs and Riviera towers don’t fit with their surroundings.
The commonality here is pretty easy to spot: function over form. Walt Disney World/Disney Vacation Club management want to cram as many rooms into their hotels as possible, design-aesthetics be damned. After all, more rooms equates to more revenue.
I would hope that an entrance hotel at Epcot would be viewed as more important than any of those other projects–necessitating a more careful and thoughtful design–but I would’ve hoped the same about countless projects at Epcot that have violated the spirit and theme of the park. At this point, pessimism is my default for hotel and Epcot projects. I guess you could say that a project entailing both makes me doubly pessimistic.
That’s basically where I am with this rumor. I really want to be optimistic about it, as there is a ton of potential that could make a hotel an asset to Epcot. I want to daydream about the unique ways the hotel could harness bleeding-edge technologies to be a natural extension of the park, and one that aesthetically enhances Future World. I think about how cool it would be to stay in Seabase Alpha Hotelater or Brava Centauri Inn. However, I feel like all of that is really getting ahead of the rumor. At this point my baseline is just hoping it’s not a generic high-rise tower. Once we (hopefully) get past that, maybe I’ll start thinking deeper about the “what ifs” of this project. For now, let’s see some concept art that shows at least a superficial design with some ambition and surface-level congruity with Epcot.
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Do you agree or disagree with our perspective on these potential Epcot in-park hotels? Do you think they’re likely to happen? Any particular themes or styles you’d like to see if an Epcot hotel is built? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!