What a week — not only representing Orlando but having a united front as we invite the world back to the U.S.!

A few team members and I just returned from Brand USA's Travel Week in London — and there is a lot of excitement from our friends across the pond! With U.S. borders reopening Nov. 8, Orange County’s state of emergency ending this week and the Biden administration providing further clarity on vaccine requirements for international visitors, this was an ideal time to promote Orlando in our top overseas market.  

We had numerous appointments with the 130+ buyer attendees, as well as press briefings, airline updates and client events to make sure they know Orlando is the perfect place to come and explore. Many of my industry colleagues were quite jealous, as the airlines kept referencing Orlando as their top destination! Attending media evidently agreed, given the numerous articles mentioning Orlando in the context of international travel returning, including coverage in Travel WeeklyTravel Trade Gazette and other outlets. 

Pre-pandemic, our destination hosted over 1 million UK visitors each year, benefiting from their lengthy stays and outsized economic impact. Now, we’re welcoming them back with — for the first time — direct service from London Heathrow Airport via Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, making Orlando more accessible than ever. (For December, UK seat capacity is at 71% of December 2019 levels.) 

At Visit Orlando, we’ve spent months preparing for the return of UK visitors, keeping our destination top of mind through media publicity, consumer marketing campaigns and consistent outreach to travel professionals. 

Complementing these efforts, on Monday I’ll be part of the “Orlando Welcomes the Brits Back” panel alongside Her Majesty’s Consul General Nicolette Brent, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Phil Brown and Head of Virgin Atlantic USA Simon Hawkins. Register here to attend virtually. 

Also on Monday, Visit Orlando will have a presence at Visit Florida’s client event in London, as well as the city's virtual World Travel Market the following week. Both give us additional opportunities to inspire future travel as we set the stage for a strong 2022.

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming back our UK friends to Orlando. Cheerio, everyone! 

Showcasing Orlando on Univision

Visit Orlando has partnered with Univision on a campaign that includes national and local content on the “Despierta America” show, as well as experiential vignettes with the family of nationally recognized influencer Marcela Velasquez.

Airing Oct. 25 through Dec. 6 in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Miami, the TV segments will showcase our extraordinary resorts, I-Drive attractions, outdoor adventures and waterparks. The promotion also includes our Wonder Remains TV spot, online video, digital display banners and organic social influencer posts, totaling a projected 6.3 million impressions. 

¡La maravilla sigue aquí! 

Making Connections in the Conventions Arena  

Our convention sales team has been busy connecting with meeting planners both new and familiar in recent weeks, planting the seeds for future events in Orlando. We recently joined 11 member partners to host over 100 planners at the Virginia Gold Cup horse race — the perfect backdrop for many attendees to resume in-person networking — and had representation at Destination Celebration in Indianapolis and Northeast CVB Reps in Cape May, N.J. 

District 1 Tour with Commissioner Nicole Wilson

So many hidden gems can be found in neighborhoods and communities throughout Orlando — and people who travel here are often eager to experience our culture like the locals. 
Over the next few months, each Orange County commissioner will give our publicity, content and member services teams a half-day tour of their district, highlighting some of their favorite spots that might be of interest to visitors and residents alike. 
This week, we joined District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson (southwest Orange County), who focused on ecotourism, as it aligns with her priorities of environmental protection and conservation. Our thanks to Commissioner Wilson and her team for a super fun and informative day at Tibet Butler Preserve and Nehrling Gardens. 

Slight Uptick in Leisure & Hospitality Employment

The leisure and hospitality industry added 2,200 jobs in September, a gain of 1.1% over the previous month. Employment gains were pretty evenly spread across arts, entertainment and recreation (800 jobs), accommodations (900) and food services (500). Currently, 16.4% of our region’s workforce is directly employed in leisure and hospitality; prior to the pandemic, it was 21%.
Here’s a closer look at employment in each industry sector as a percentage of pre-COVID levels: 

  • Food services and drinking places: 89%
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation: 64%
  • Accommodations: 57% 

United Way Change Maker Impact Awards

Congratulations to Central Florida tourism leaders George Aguel (Visit Orlando's former president & CEO) and Rich Maladecki (former president & CEO of CFHLA), as well as all the honorees from last night's United Way Change Maker Impact Awards. The event shows appreciation for individuals and organizations who have contributed to significant and lasting change in our community over the past year.

Weekly Hotel Occupancy

For the week ending Oct. 23, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy fell slightly to 57.5% but remains much higher than the low levels seen in August and September. Average daily rate also fell $4.48 to $125.70. 

Across the Industry

GOAA: International travel entry guidelines
Fox35: Orange County's state of emergency expired Wednesday

NBC: Airlines and tourist hot spots prepare to welcome international travelers again

Jet Set Generation: Here are 25 new reasons to visit Orlando, Florida this winter
TravelPulse: White House, airlines say vaccine mandate won’t impact holiday travel
Travel + Leisure: Win a trip to Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary for 50 people

Orlando Business Journal: Disney's move to Orlando to boost venues downtown

TravelPulse: US hotel occupancy levels reach highest peak since August

Panrotas (Brazil): Flight bookings to the US skyrocket in Brazil and Europe

Travel Weekly UK: US gateways eye big bounce-back in UK arrivals


Casandra Matej

In your service,

Casandra Matej

Casandra Matej | President & CEO
Visit Orlando