Central Florida tourism industry showing signs of bouncing back from pandemic

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The latest tourist development tax money numbers show the first decline in collections since the tourism industry hit rock bottom in April.

January numbers, just released Monday, were also the lowest for the month of January in nearly 20 years.

But despite the low numbers, there is optimism moving forward.

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With the December holidays, we typically see a drop-off in January for leisure travel. And this January, we didn’t have the NFL Pro Bowl like last year, and the January College Bowl had limited capacity.

In January, Orlando brought in nearly $7.7 million in tourist development tax money from hotel and motel stays. It was a bit of a letdown after eight straight month-over-month gains since last April.

It was also the lowest amount in any January since 2002.

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“That wasn’t unexpected,” said Daryl Cronk Sr, director of market research and insights for Visit Orlando. “We knew December would benefit from travel around the holiday periods that would help lift December collections.”

Cronk said, typically in January, convention business makes up for the drop off from holiday travel.

But with the pandemic, convention business was down too. Still, there are signs of life.

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In February, hotel occupancy reached 50%, which was much better than expected. And, we just came off the busiest convention weekend since the pandemic started, with four different events.

“All told, it generated an estimated 21,000 room nights for the county and had an economic impact of $35 million,” said Mark Tessler, executive director of the Orange County Convention Center.

With Spring Break and summer on the horizon, Visit Orlando has extended its marketing campaign that was set to end this month, touting theme parks, outdoor activities and safety measures in place.

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.