Happy New Year! As we kick off 2022, I know it may seem like we continue to take 10 steps forward and then get pulled back again. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 omicron variant is not only impacting our community, but the decisions of groups and leisure visitors as well. 

Using the latest research to guide us, Visit Orlando will remain diligent in our efforts to keep our community safe while educating our customers and convention clients how to safely meet and experience our destination. As a community and industry, we will move forward and work through any obstacles that may come our way. 

A national study by Destination Analysts indicates that while omicron has disrupted travel for some, its impact will likely not be as drastic as with previous variants and surges. So far, that is mostly what we are seeing in Orlando from a visitation standpoint. 

Advance hotel bookings for January and February are just above 70% of 2019 levels, and they have been trending upward, particularly in the group segment. Domestic airline seat capacity for those months is projected to surpass 2019 levels, and while international seat capacity lags pre-pandemic figures by about a third, it is still a vast improvement over this time last year.

As for meetings and conventions, we continue to be the industry leader. Between January and March, the Orange County Convention Center will host 30 events with about 400,000 attendees, estimated to generate $864 million in economic impact. 

Read below — and check out Visit Orlando’s 2022 business plan to see some of the ways Visit Orlando is working to inspire, promote and grow travel this year. 

Fun for Adults in New Campaign with AAA

Visit Orlando has partnered with AAA Auto Club Group on a new digital content program featuring an “Orlando for Adults” theme. This content showcases grownup fun beyond the theme parks, from I-Drive to Winter Park, including an article and video produced by AAA that captures one couple’s weekend getaway. The campaign started in December and runs through January. Over 2 million potential impressions are expected on platforms that include AAA.com, AAA Living South/Midwest websites, emails and social channels.

The Visit Orlando App Is Completely Refreshed!

Our app recently received a complete makeover, including a new look, faster load times and improved user experience. If you haven’t downloaded the app or opened it recently, check it out!  

Visit Orlando Welcomes First UK Fam Since Borders Reopened 

Just before the year ended, Aer Lingus launched its first direct flight from Manchester, UK. In celebration and promotion, Visit Orlando co-hosted a familiarization trip with Aer Lingus and Universal Orlando Resort for eight UK travel professionals. The FAM group’s packed itinerary included a full-day immersion at Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks, a state park manatee tour hosted by Real Florida Adventures, shopping at The Mall at Millenia and an exclusive dinner reception at Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. 

November TDT Surpasses October by $3.6 Million

Orange County collected just over $25 million in Tourist Development Taxes for November, the second-highest November on record. Last month’s collections came in $3.6 million higher than October and were just $697,100 lower than November 2019. 

Weekly Occupancy Eclipses 80%, Highest Rate Since Pandemic

For the week ending Jan. 1, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy was 81.3%, a huge jump from previous weeks and the highest weekly occupancy since the onset of the pandemic. Average daily rate also rose $47.07 to $191.04, the highest weekly ADR for the destination on record since this metric was first tracked in 2000.

Around the Destination

Over the holiday season, I had an opportunity to continue my exploration of the destination and region. With friends and family coming to visit, we enjoyed spending time at Sea World Orlando, experiencing animal interactions, roller coasters and the park’s holiday ice-skating extravaganza, Winter Wonderland on Ice.  

We had additional thrill seeking at Gatorland, feeding the alligators and enjoying the Scream’in Gator Zip Line — it will take your breath away. 

If you haven’t tried the services of Real Florida Adventures, they have so many tours to choose from. We went with a Crystal River swim with the manatees in the Manatee Capital of the World, then headed to the Withlacoochee River for an airboat tour to explore Florida’s wonderful nature. Florida Real Adventures is truly a one-stop shop to make amazing adventures a reality. 

And of course, Florida Citrus Sports did an amazing job hosting not just one bowl game but three this year. Fans were excited to cheer on their teams — and it was a great way to showcase Orlando as the perfect location to host major sporting events. During the Cheez-It Bowl, I even had an opportunity to taste mac and cheese made with Cheez-its!

Community Events and Meetings

The Visit Orlando staff is off to a running start in 2022, gearing up for a year full of events and appearances across the destination. On Tuesday, I had the honor of joining incoming board chair Terry Prather of Lift Orlando on a tour of historic Eatonville alongside Mayor Eddie Cole.

Wednesday featured learning about the State of Winter Park (so much amazing progress on the horizon), and on Friday Maria Henson, our director of market research and insights, spoke at the Orlando Business Journal’s 2022 Economic Outlook. 

We look forward to seeing you around town!

Congratulations to CFHLA Award Winners

Congratulations to Brian Comes, Visit Orlando board chair and area vice president of the Hyatt Regency Orlando, for being named CFHLA’s Lodging Member of the Year. And kudos to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, also a member of our board, who won the Charles Andrews Memorial Hospitality Award — the highest honor bestowed upon an individual by CFHLA.

2021 Game Changers 

Thank you to the Orlando Business Journal for including me among the list of "2021 Game Changers" helping our tourism industry recover — and congratulations to all of my colleagues who were featured:  

  • Marc Swanson, CEO of SeaWorld Orlando  
  • Maria Triscari, president/CEO of the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Tom Nolan, president/CEO of Orlando Sanford International Airport  
  • Robert Agrusa, president/CEO of Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association 

Across the Industry

SeaWorld Orlando: Ice Breaker coaster to open February 18

WFTV: Disney reopens Typhoon Lagoon Water Park after nearly 2 years of refurbishments

TravelAwaits: 8 Orlando attractions we’re excited to see open in 2022

USA Today: Orlando among 10 best places to go with kids in 2022

WKMG: Restaurants we know will be opening around Central Florida in 2022 

Florida Politics: Even in pandemic, Orlando tourism starts new year strong

Hemispheres (United Airlines): Charm and culture abound in Winter Park 

Casandra Matej

In your service,

Casandra Matej

Casandra Matej | President & CEO
Visit Orlando