One of the most significant strengths we have as a destination is our history of working together as a community, especially in times of crisis. As you'll read below, I'm proud that Visit Orlando continues to find new ways to contribute to this challenge.
VISIT ORLANDO IN ACTION
Economic Recovery Task Force: This week, nearly 50 of our region's top business and community leaders came together for the first virtual meeting of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force. I'm honored that Mayor Jerry Demings gave me the opportunity to co-chair this group along with Tim Giuliani, president & CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership. Together, our goal is to work on a measured, phased approach to restarting the local economy, while ensuring the safety of employees and the public.
On behalf of the many tourism businesses across our region, represented by Visit Orlando, we are grateful for Mayor Demings' leadership in establishing this Task Force as a united effort to achieve a successful recovery.
Meetings are broadcast live on Orange TV, and our next is scheduled for April 28 at 2:30 p.m. You can read more about the Task Force here.
Global Visitation: When the time comes to open Orlando to international visitors, we'll be in a strong position to hit the ground running. In recent weeks, our travel industry sales team has been proactively communicating with key partners the world over, including travel agents, booking platforms, airlines and others. In webinars for English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking clients, we've hosted more than 1,000 travel professionals, keeping them up to speed on destination updates, sales strategies, virtual tours, our Orlando Travel Academy and other forward looking perspectives. To learn more about these initiatives, please email Elaine Blazys, associate vice president of travel industry sales.
Help Hub: Be sure to check out our dedicated Tourism Help Hub webpage regularly, as we continue to update information on financial relief resources, food assistance, employment opportunities and special offers our members are giving healthcare workers and first responders. The hub also provides access to Visit Orlando's industry insights, webinars and opportunities to join campaigns that are helping to keep Orlando top of mind with consumers.
Webinars: On Wednesday, another large group registered to hear Martin Stoll, CEO of Sparkloft Media, dive into "the mindset of the (post-)crisis consumer." Join us April 29 at 1 p.m. as John Hach, senior industry analyst at TravelClick, shares more valuable insights that will be helplful to create your own road to recovery. This seminar will be hosted by Visit Orlando's economist and head of research, Daryl Cronk. Register and view previous webinars here.
Rescheduling Conventions: Our convention sales team continues to work alongside the Orange County Convention Center and member hotels to reschedule impacted groups. As of Thursday, 19 conventions with an estimated economic impact of $400 million have rescheduled for 2020 or 2021.
Big-Picture Look at Hotel Occupancy: Our latest estimates show that of nearly 500 hotels in our region, 59% remain open, primarily more limited service properties. Our region's occupancy for March 2020 was 40.4%, lower than September 2001 (44%). April, the first full month of impact, will be even lower, with an occupancy rate around 12-14%. As you can imagine, May is expected to be similar, assuming the theme parks stay closed and there remain no large conventions at the center.
May Advance Bookings Drop Sharply; September Shows Increase:Advance bookings slid sharply over the past week, following news that theme park closures would extend through May. Total advance bookings for May are down 72.8% vs. the same month last year. Looking at the summer, bookings are not down as much at 39.8% in June, 23.2% in July and 20.3% in August. On a positive note, September is showing an 8.6% increase, in large part due to convention groups rebooked from earlier in the year.
Meeting Planner Survey Shows Optimism for Q4: A recent PCMA survey of meeting planners found mixed views on whether meetings will pick up by fall, but it does show optimism they will return in Q4. Although 70% acknowledged moving portions or all of a meeting to a virtual platform, nearly two-thirds (62%) of those surveyed do not believe virtual events will cannibalize future in-person meetings.
An Optimistic Glimmer: Consumer confidence is critical for recovery. While we have a way to go, I'm encouraged that Americans remain optimistic by nature. A recent poll showed an increasing number believe our situation will improve in the next six months (34%, up from 29.5% last week) and half still plan to travel in the fall.
COMMUNITY & HEALTH
Stay-at-Home Order: The statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect until May 1. For information on how it impacts personal mobility and business operations, please refer to this updated and extended FAQ. For the most critical local health and government updates, visit Orange County's coronavirus webpage.
Face Coverings: While not a mandate, Orange County strongly urges individuals to wear a mask or facial covering when out in public and at essential businesses.
Call for Masks: Orange County Government is in need of masks for employees and personnel. Donations can be delivered to 101 Suddath Drive, Orlando, FL 32806 (Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). For more information, contact 407-394-4831.
Testing Info: There are now four coronavirus testing sites in Orange County: Orange County Convention Center, UCF's main campus, the Mall at Millenia and 12050 E. Colonial Drive. In addition, the Florida Department of Health is offering free, mobile testing sites at various locations. More information, including testing criteria, can be found at ocfl.net/coronavirus.