This week was full of important events for our convention sales and marketing teams, as Visit Orlando was well-represented at some of the year’s most influential shows for show organizers and meeting professionals. Attending SISO CEO Summit, IAEE’s Women’s Leadership Forum and the PCMA Destination Showcase helped us connect with key decision-makers who can steer important group business to our destination.
Over the course of the year, we’ll be heading to dozens of similar shows across the U.S. to discuss booking meetings into the Orange County Convention Center and our convention hotels. Complementing these efforts, we’re also devoting more resources to enhance industry outreach through newsletters, online content, publicity, advertising, virtual tours and customized tools for meeting planners.
Add it all up and we are proud to report that since January, Visit Orlando has booked 103 events for 2022 and beyond that will generate an estimated $310 million in economic impact — money that will help our community’s ongoing recovery while bolstering our reputation as America’s No. 1 destination for meetings and events.
Revised Data Paints a Brighter Picture for Tourism Jobs
Encouraging news this week from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. According to revised estimates in the January labor report — part of the statewide benchmarking process that occurs this time each year — Orlando’s tourism industry is further along in its jobs recovery than previously thought.
Overall, the leisure and hospitality sector ended 2021 at 89% of pre-pandemic employment levels, as opposed to the previous estimate of 76%. The three segments making up leisure and hospitality (arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodations; and food services and drinking places) also saw significant gains, as indicated by the chart above.
For context, Orlando MSA employment in sectors other than leisure and hospitality now stands at 101% of February 2020, so there is hope that a similar recovery can be achieved for tourism. Visit Orlando is committed to working with our industry and community partners to assist in rebuilding our region’s No. 1 economic engine.
Read more about leisure and hospitality employment on the national level in this report by the U.S. Travel Association.
Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Orlando
If you plan to watch the Academy Awards March 27, be on the lookout for Visit Orlando’s “The Wonder Remains” TV commercial. This placement, which comes at no cost, was secured as remnant space by our national advertising agency. The media value exceeds $1.4 million, and it’s a great high-profile hit for Orlando during the busy spring break travel season.
Orlando’s Hotel Occupancy Shatters Pandemic-Era Record
Our destination has hit a major milestone in our ongoing recovery, thanks to spring break visitors. Metro Orlando hotel occupancy March 13-19 was 90.5%, up from the previous week’s 80.6% and by far our highest rate since the start of the pandemic (the former mark was 8.5.9% in late February). Our occupancy was also the second highest among the top 25 U.S. markets, falling just behind Tampa (90.6%). Average daily rate rose to $195.30, up $27.01 from $168.29 last week, beating out the high of $191.04 we saw in late December.
Monthly Results: In other good news, Orlando’s February hotel occupancy (73.1%) improved significantly from January (59%), pushing our destination closer to pre-pandemic levels. We placed fourth among the top 25 U.S. markets (behind Miami, Tampa and Phoenix), and average daily rate was $155, our highest monthly ADR on record. Leisure occupancy was 76% and convention occupancy 67.5%, indicating that recovery is extending into both lodging segments.
Travel Restrictions Easing in UK and Canada
More and more countries are relaxing their COVID-related travel restrictions, which should lead to an uptick in international visitors, especially from the UK and Canada. While all travel to the U.S. still requires a negative COVID test for entry, it is getting significantly easier for those visitors to return home without concerns of being stuck abroad.
Testing requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals into the UK were dropped in February, and travelers who are not fully vaccinated now only need to fill out a form and take a PCR test after arriving home. This update comes at the perfect time, since Orlando was just named among the top 10 best value destinations for UK travelers.
Canadians will also have an easier time returning home, as April 1 marks the end of Canada’s pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirements for all fully vaccinated travelers.
Community and Industry Activities
District 4 Tour: Yesterday, our staff joined Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero for a personal tour of her district in southeast Orange County, with stops at the beautiful Spilt Oaks Forest, Bombers Field Park and the Marketplace at Avalon Park. It was a great reminder of Orlando’s lovely outdoor offerings for visitors and residents alike! Thank you, Commissioner Cordero!
SISO CEO Summit: We enjoyed attending this week’s Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) CEO Summit alongside so many talented tradeshow industry leaders. Visit Orlando had the opportunity to host nearly 80 customers for a pre-event reception. The summit provided important learning and networking opportunities, with attendees discussing what they expect the industry to look like in the next several months.
CFHLA Government Affairs Meeting: On Wednesday, we attended CFHLA’s monthly government affairs meeting, which allows hospitality executives to discuss industry issues with elected officials and community leaders. Guest speaker Mayor Jerry Demings presented his Housing for All Initiative and proposed 1-cent sales tax to bolster Orange County’s transportation infrastructure. As a reminder, there’s just under a week left to offer your feedback on the county’s transportation priorities via the mayor's survey.
Onyx Awards: Visit Orlando board member Terry Prather and CMO Danielle Hollander attended Onyx magazine's seventh annual Women on the Move Awards. This year, 22 outstanding Black women were honored for their contributions in their professions and community, and it was fantastic to be in the room as these trailblazers were celebrated. Read more about them here.
In the News
As you’re aware, today has been filled with very sad news for our destination, as we mourn the loss of a 14-year-old boy who died Thursday night while riding the Orlando FreeFall attraction. Our hearts go out to the young man’s family and friends.
Guest safety is paramount to our partners across the tourism industry, and an investigation is underway to fully understand what led to this tragic event.
Visit Orlando released a statement this morning and has fielded multiple media requests for interviews.