If you had to name the top two cities in the U.S. for food-lovers, would you guess Orlando is one of them? If not, I’m pleased to surprise you with the happy news that we are No. 2 in the nation (behind Portland, Oregon), according to Wallethub
The rankings were based on two key factors: “affordability” and “diversity, accessibility and quality” — and we certainly score high in both!  
At Visit Orlando, spreading awareness about our incredible dining scene is one of the most rewarding aspects of our job — we love eating here as much as you do! — and we’re proud that over the past 16 years, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining has generated considerable publicity for restaurants across our destination.  
Speaking of, more than 75 restaurants have now opted to be part of our recently extended signature program, which is now serving three-course meals for $37 through Oct. 17. Head to OrlandoMagicalDining.com for menus and reservations, all in support of a great cause

Orlando: Most Booked Destination for Thanksgiving and Christmas

As we near the winter holidays, a historically popular visitation period for our destination, we can expect higher hotel occupancy rates, due to the combination of pent-up demand and international travel resuming. Supporting this projection, Hopper's Holiday Travel Guide Report lists Orlando as the most booked U.S. destination for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  
In 2019, the average occupancy rate for Dec. 26-31 was 91%. Currently, the booking pace for that stretch is about 85% of where we stood at this point in 2019.
For the week ending Oct. 2, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy dipped 5.5 percentage points to 46.7%, returning to the levels it had been for most of August and September. Average daily rate was down $1.59 to $113.20. 

IMMERSE 2021 Heading to Downtown Orlando

The popular downtown art, music and culture festival IMMERSE is back Oct. 15-16, 5 to 11 p.m., featuring hundreds of performances and enhanced safety measures. Catch aerialists swinging from scaffolding high above Orange Avenue, be delighted by unexpected creative encounters with interactive art, and enjoy other immersive experiences that will challenge your perceptions. Performances from the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic, Central Florida Community Arts and more will also be on display. You won't want to miss it! 

OCCC Launches “Business Better than Usual” Campaign 

The Orange County Convention Center is harnessing the momentum of past successes by launching a new campaign, Business Better than Usual, with a video featuring OCCC employees across its safe and expansive 400-acre campus. 

The OCCC has successfully welcomed 130 conventions, trade shows, meetings, consumer and sporting events since July 2020. While most convention centers and meeting facilities are just beginning to get back to business, the OCCC is doing “Business Better than Usual” through its expert knowledge of hosting safe, successful events. 

Looking ahead to next fiscal year, the Center is expecting to host 125 events, welcoming approximately 1.5 million attendees and generating $3.1 billion in economic impact from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. 

Orlando's "50 Most Powerful" 

This week, I was honored to be featured in Orlando Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful People of 2021 for Tourism & Transportation. I am both humbled and inspired to be named among so many incredible leaders across our destination, including the seven other Tourism & Transportation honorees: 

  • Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort
  • Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando Resort
  • Harris Rosen, president & COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts
  • Christopher Jaskiewicz, president & CEO of ICON Park
  • Maria Triscari, president & CEO of the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Laura Kelley, executive director of the Central Florida Expressway Authority
  • Phil Brown, CEO of Orlando International Airport

Pride Week and the Bid to Host WorldPride 

On Monday, our team joined Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, business organizations and city officials at a kickoff reception by Come Out with Pride to celebrate the start of Pride Week and discuss plans for our upcoming 2026 WorldPride bid. 

Orlando is a strong contender to host WorldPride, an international celebration of the LGBTQ+ community held in a different city every year. As 2026 will be the 10th anniversary of Pulse, it’s a fitting time to welcome thousands of attendees for an LGBTQ+ rights conference, festival events and perhaps the biggest parade Central Florida has ever seen.  

Visit Orlando is joining efforts to bring WorldPride 2026 to our destination, as this event will truly showcase the strength, unity and diversity of our amazing community. Learn more about how you can be involved here.  

Welcome New Members

Please join me in recognizing our newest members. These companies are committed to working with us to brand, market and sell our destination, and we welcome their engagement!

Across the Industry

Travel+Leisure: The top 15 resort hotels in Florida 

CNN: US is turning a corner in its fight against COVID-19, Fauci says

Windy City Times: Orlando welcomes visitors from all over the world for LGBTQ+ pride

Prevue: Cautious optimism ahead for fall 2021

Fox 35 Online: Loews Hotels plans to hire 700 people in anticipation of busy holiday season

Orlando Weekly: 'Top Chef' winner Richard Blais opening Orlando restaurant in former home of Hemingway's

Edge Media Network: 11 reasons to make Orlando your must-visit fall getaway 

TravelPulse: New data shows hospitality jobs are making a comeback

Casandra Matej

In your service,

Casandra Matej

Casandra Matej | President & CEO
Visit Orlando