‘Cause for celebration’: Visit Orlando says Central Florida tourism on the rebound

ORLANDO, Fla. — When fully operational, the Central Florida tourism industry employs nearly half a million people and accounts for more than half of all sales-tax revenue.

But the pandemic changed everything.

READ: An “experiential media environment”: Inside OIA’s high-tech south terminal expansion project

“Obviously in April of 2020, I mean we took a deep dive and that was one of our hardest hit months,” said Visit Orlando’s new CEO Cassandra Matej.

But she said the industry is resilient and continues to rise from its rock bottom numbers.

Visit Orlando’s had to make some huge adjustments over the last year, reducing staff by 26%, the budget by 67% and advertising from $28 million to $8 million.

READ: A year since cruise ships last sailed, Port Canaveral officials remain hopeful for the future

But things are looking up. Bookings through Orlando International Airport show domestic travel will be equal to what it was before the pandemic by May, and even better than pre-pandemic numbers this summer.

And there are currently 84 city-wide conventions booked through the end of this year, bringing nearly 930,000 people to Orlando.

READ: Coronavirus: International travelers will have to show negative test for entry to US

“This is a cause for celebration, because I promise you most of my counterparts that I’m talking to around the country, they do not have these numbers,” Matej said.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.