Tomorrow, America will pause to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a day when the bravery and sacrifice of our first responders was on full display.
Now, two decades later, that same commitment is still evident — just on a different battlefield. For the past 18 months, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and many others have served boldly on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting themselves in harm's way to aid their fellow citizens in a time of great need.
On behalf of Orlando's tourism industry, we extend our deepest gratitude. As a small token of our appreciation, this morning Visit Orlando was honored to serve breakfast to the men and women of Orange County Fire Station 71 near Orlando International Airport.
Over these past 20 years, so much has changed — but one thing remains certain: Then and now, first responders are the true heroes among us. Their service embodies the best of who we are as a people.
Lodging Update: Record-Setting July, but Concern for Fall
As anticipated, Orange County's Tourist Development Tax collections for July set a pandemic-era high, coming in at $24.7 million, thanks to strong hotel occupancy rates. In fact, the result was $2.1 million higher than the same month in 2019, making it our best July ever.
Tempering this bit of good news, July's performance could be our high-water mark for the foreseeable future, as August occupancy suffered the one-two punch of school resuming and traveler sentiment weakening because of the delta variant. On top of that, advance bookings are slowing considerably for the fall months.
For the week ending Sept. 4, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy did improve slightly, up 3.2% to 45.6% – ending a 5-week streak of drops. Average daily rate also increased $9.34 to $113.54 and continues to be higher than pre-pandemic levels. Florida increased slightly as well, with occupancy at 55.5%, while U.S. occupancy held steady at 61.3%.
Progress on the Vaccination Front
Our collective efforts to make Orlando as safe and welcoming as possible are yielding results: In Orange County, 70% of those ages 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and positivity rates have declined to 14.3%. While we still have a long way to go, I'm encouraged that we are moving in the right direction.
Visit Orlando's Magical Dining: A Non-Stop Hit with Media
If you live in Central Florida, it's hard to miss Visit Orlando's Magical Dining, where more than 90 restaurants are serving up three-course meals for only $37 now through Oct. 3.
To spread the word, our team continues to generate strong media coverage, like this segment on FOX35 showcasing the Venetian Chop House at Caribe Royale. The segment also shines a nice spotlight on IDignity, one of our charity partners who benefit from the $1 per meal donation.
This week I had the pleasure of attending the VISIT FLORIDA Governor's Conference on Tourism along with Visit Orlando's Chief Financial Officer Randy Singh and Chief Sales Officer Mike Waterman. This event offered an important opportunity to connect with our colleagues (like VISIT FLORIDA's President and CEO Dana Young, pictured above) on the state level and discuss the potential for future partnerships. We also gained valuable insights from experts on shifting consumer behaviors, the future of meetings and events, and other industry topics.
In-Person Events Continue to Thrive in Orlando
The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association HEAT Tradeshow is the latest example of how we are moving forward as a destination by offering safe, successful, in-person events. Check out the video above to learn how attendees and vendors are coming together to forge a new future for face-to-face meetings.
Orlando Wins Twice in Readers' Choice Awards
United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine unveiled its Readers' Choice Awards winners last week, and Orlando made the list twice: Best U.S. City for Families and Best Theme Park (Walt Disney World Resort). We're honored to remain a favorite for travelers. Find the entire list of winners here.