As we near the end of winter — on the calendar, since Orlando’s version hardly qualifies! — we have a clearer picture of our industry’s performance to begin the year, and what we might expect moving into spring. 

January: The omicron variant and seasonal travel patterns impacted visitation, causing Orange County’s Tourist Development Tax revenue ($22.4 million) to drop from a strong December showing. 

February: Travel to Orlando saw steady improvement as omicron waned, northern states went on winter breaks, people celebrated the President’s Day weekend, and large industry shows such as the International Builders’ Show and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show came to town. Ending the month on a high note, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy for the week of Feb. 20-26 was an incredible 85.9% — by far our best since the pandemic — while average daily rate climbed to $169.21. 

March and April: Looking ahead to the spring break season, excitement for travel is back. Advance hotel bookings for leisure travel to Orlando are pacing at 82% (March) and 88% (April) of pre-pandemic levels. Booking windows continue to be short, and of course things could always change, but the most recent data suggest 90% of U.S. travelers have travel plans in the next six months, which is great news for our destination!

Accolades for Orlando Chefs and Restaurants 

Congratulations are in order for several culinarians across our destination, including those honored as 2022 James Beard Award semifinalists

  • Henry Moso, Kabooki Sushi: Best Chef: South.
  • Rabii Saber, Four Seasons: Outstanding Pastry Chef.
  • Evette Rahman, Sister Honey’s: Outstanding Baker. 
  • Jason and Sue Chin, Good Salt Restaurant Group: Outstanding Restaurateur.

Plus, Mills50 spot The Strand has been named Restaurant of the Year in the Orlando Sentinel’s 2022 Foodie Awards — check out all the winners here.  

At Visit Orlando, we continue to spotlight our destination’s diverse, award-winning culinary scene to enhance any visit. And with our pending inclusion in the world-famous MICHELIN Guide, expect even more accolades and attention in the coming months.

Virtual Travel Show with AAA 

Visit Orlando is partnering with AAA to host a first-of-its-kind, single-destination booking event for consumers on March 26. This virtual travel show will help generate sales to Orlando, using AAA as the exclusive booking partner. It’s also a unique opportunity for our members to connect with future visitors like never before.

Interested consumers can register now, so if your friends or family are thinking about a visit, please share the link! 

The Wonder Remains Campaign Wins Bronze Adrian Award

Visit Orlando’s yearlong marketing campaign, “The Wonder Remains,” has received a Bronze Adrian Award by HSMAI in the Recovery Campaign category. These awards, which recognize travel marketing excellence, showcased the great work done by hotels, destinations and their agency partners to get the country moving again in 2021.

Out and About

Mentoring Monday: I was delighted to participate in Orlando Business Journal's annual Bizwomen Mentoring Monday, which connected a variety of area businesswomen with up-and-coming professionals. It was fun, heart-warming and inspiring to meet so many women whose gumption and ambition will carry them to productive careers. 

Parramore Walking Tour: Last Friday, Sheryl Taylor and Rob Humphreys, two members of our Diversity Committee, attended a walking tour of Parramore, now a Main Street District. Thank you to the African American Chamber of Commerce for hosting this very informative event. The history, culture and pride on display in just a couple of blocks wowed the group, and they recommend everyone make a visit! 

Tourism Orlando: Kristen Darby, our senior vice president of membership & support services, presented to the I-Drive Chamber’s Tourism Orlando leadership class this morning, educating attendees on Visit Orlando’s role in supporting our industry and community.

IMM: Dipika Hernandez, public relations senior manager, connected with nearly 30 journalists, content creators and social media influencers this week at IMM North America, TravMedia's leading media networking event. Meeting by virtual appointment, she pitched Orlando stories and inspired future press visits with a host of fresh content angles and all the new things Orlando has to offer.  

Golden Pineapple Awards: Congrats to CFHLA for hosting the Golden Pineapple Awards this week. It was a fun and touching evening, as front-line employees from hotels across Central Florida were recognized for the amazing service they provide. I really enjoyed the incredible stories shared, from life-saving acts to going above and beyond in service. Congratulations to all the award winners!

Arnold Palmer Invitational: It was a pleasure to attend my first Arnold Palmer Invitational on Thursday, an event that highlights what an incredible golf destination Orlando is. The API brings together golf enthusiasts, businesses and the community to showcase some of the best talents out there, on one of our world-class greens — the Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Thank you to OEP for the invitation.   

In the News

WOFL Online: Orange County mayor proposes sales tax increase for transportation initiative

Ginsburg Family Foundation: $10 million donated for new Holocaust Museum downtown

OBJ:  SeaWorld Entertainment ends fiscal year with ‘record’ milestones, more to come

Orlando Weekly: 91 new restaurants to enjoy in Orlando this year  

TravelAge West: Travel industry urges Biden administration to lift COVID-19 travel restrictions

Matador Network: What to do and where to eat in Ivanhoe Village, Orlando

Greater Orlando Sports: Camping World Stadium to host opening match of 2022 MexTour

Casandra Matej

In your service,
Casandra Matej
Casandra Matej | President & CEO
Visit Orlando