While the summer season is synonymous with leisure travel, I have good news to share about the progress of our region’s meetings and convention industry. For 2022, Orlando continues to lead the way with our citywide business recovery pacing 4% ahead of pre-pandemic levels, well ahead of the national level which is 30% behind 2019. Year-to-date through May, convention hotel demand is at 89% of pre-pandemic levels while last year this time, demand was shy of 45%. We’ve been honored to host several big events this spring and summer that have contributed to this progress. The AAU Girls Junior Volleyball Championships was the first event we welcomed back in July of 2020, bringing 9,600 visitors. Since then, attendance has been trending upward. Last year, 135,000 traveled for the championship while 178,000 are now expected at the event held this week at the Orange County Convention Center. MEGACON Orlando, the largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime and gaming event, shattered attendance records welcoming 140,000 attendees to our destination in May. To drive future business, your Visit Orlando team is hard at work promoting our destination as the top choice for meetings and events, with activities including:
Sales missions to increase market share for key conference planners, drive business to Orlando and present our products and services. Missions in queue include Philadelphia, Boston, Tallahassee and Dallas.
Site visits to provide clients with a personal experience of what our destination has to offer including hotels and resorts, unique off-site event space, top theme parks and local neighborhoods.
Industry events to gain exposure and keep us on the leading edge with key clients. IMEX, approaching in the fall, presents the perfect opportunity to unveil Unbelievably Real to our M&C audiences while annual conferences like Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress (WEC) secure business opportunities and build industry relationships.
As travel increases, we can expect to reach closer to our visitation goal and host more conventions and meetings at our destination.
Announcing the Unbelievably Real Sweepstakes Winner
Congratulations to Rachel Knaub of Winter Park for capturing the winning submission of our sweepstakes — a stunning sunset. Rachel will receive an unbelievable weekend at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin along with a Visit Orlando swag bag full of experiences to enjoy the ultimate staycation. This campaign was a great way to rally the community and see from our residents’ perspective why Orlando is unbelievably real. Several key areas of our destination were highlighted including downtown Orlando, hotels and resorts, ICON Park, Disney Springs, museums, stadiums and more. Thank you to many of our members across the destination for your support and we appreciate all who participated!
Tripadvisor Immersive Audio Experience
You may recall that in November of 2021, Visit Orlando and Tripadvisor collaborated to launch a unique voice experience that uses Amazon’s Alexa technology. The partnership allows travelers to discover the wonders of Orlando — from ecotourism and unique neighborhoods to celebrity-chef dining, local arts and culture, and more — just by saying: “Alexa, launch Visit Orlando.” We’re excited to announce as an enhanced new layer, the second iteration of the voice activation will be integrated into Amazon Fire TV to promote Orlando's must-see neighborhoods including downtown Orlando, International Drive, Winter Park, Lake Nona and Winter Garden. The campaign will run June through August.
Key Tourism Indicators
For the month of May: Metro Orlando’s occupancy averaged 70.5%, up significantly from 57.2% a year ago (2021) but is still short of pre-pandemic levels (74.8% in 2019). Room night demand increased 36% from 2021 and is level with 2019. For the week ending June 18: Metro Orlando hotel weekly occupancy was 75.3%, up two percentage points from last week’s 72.9%. Average daily rate remained essentially flat from last week at $148.26. Employment: Orlando MSA leisure and hospitality sector gained 1,700 jobs in May, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, pushing industry employment to 92% of February 2020 levels. The sector is comprised of three areas:
Food services and drinking places expanded 0.7% to reach 101% of pre-pandemic levels.
Arts, entertainment and recreation grew 1% (89% of 2019).
Accommodations grew 0.2% (81% of 2019).
Orlando’s overall unemployment rate rose to 2.7% from 2.6% but remains one of the lowest rates since February 2020.
Welcome New Members
Visit Orlando is actively working to reach milestones and we are proud to share that we have achieved our 2022 goal of 1,200 total members. Member companies represent all aspects of our destination — from local neighborhoods and restaurants to public parks and historical sites — across Central Florida. Please join me in recognizing our newest members. These companies are committed to working with us to brand, market and sell our destination, and we welcome their engagement!
UCF Presentation: Earlier this week, Toni Caracciolo, VP of marketing, spoke to University of Central Florida’s MBA marketing class about Visit Orlando’s role as a destination marketing organization. Speaking to current students is one example of our commitment to building the future leaders of tomorrow and showcasing careers within the travel and tourism industry.
Pride Chamber Golf Tournament: Visit Orlando joined community and business leaders at Dubsdread for the Pride Chamber’s annual golf tournament.
Spectrum Reach Event: Spectrum hosted an event for their sales team members to learn our industry’s latest research trends and market projections. Visit Orlando’s director of market research and insights, Maria Henson, provided the update.
Invest Greater Orlando Webinar: Invest Greater Orlando hosted a virtual webinar led by industry leaders. The keynote speakers included Tim Giuliani, president and CEO at Orlando Economic Partnership, and Peter Cranis, executive director at Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism.
I-Drive Chamber Luncheon: Visit Orlando team members attended this month’s International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Located at Rodizio Grill, the topic focused on Pointe Orlando’s redevelopment project that is underway to enhance connectivity, create gathering places and add artistic elements.
Florida Legislative Update: Stan Rubins, VP of external affairs and legal counsel, represented Visit Orlando at the Florida Legislative update. Panelists provided a recap on how new laws and the changes imposed will impact the future of Orange County.
MPI WEC Annual Conference: Visit Orlando representatives attended the MPI WEC annual conference with our sales team to secure appointments with buyers, build relationships with clients and stay up to date on the latest trends in our industry.
IAEE MarketHub Highlight Series: Yesterday, I joined Scott Craighead, VP of exhibitions and events at IAEE, at their MarketHub Highlight Series to provide an update on Orlando and our region’s new global brand, Unbelievably Real.