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Orlando conventions hurt by coronavirus fears but not theme parks

Orange County loses $154M as 3 conventions cancel over health concerns

Sky 6 video shows the crowds at Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31, 2018. The park was at capacity by noon. (Image: WKMG)
Sky 6 video shows the crowds at Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31, 2018. The park was at capacity by noon. (Image: WKMG)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Three convention groups have canceled their conferences in Orlando, the most visited U.S. destination, but individual leisure travel appears to be unaffected by fears about the new coronavirus, local officials said Thursday.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference that the cancellations of the three conventions represented a local economic impact of $154 million.

No case of the new coronavirus has been detected in the county. The nearest case in Florida was at least 65 miles away in the Tampa area.

[RELATED: Health IT conference Trump planned to attend in Orlando canceled amid coronavirus fears]

The biggest hit was from the cancellation of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's meeting next week since it was expected to draw 43,000 attendees, Demings said.

Earlier in the week, several large exhibitors had said they wouldn't attend the conference. President Donald Trump and several administration health officials had been expected to speak at the convention.

“Based on evaluation of evolving circumstances and coordination with an external advisory panel of medical professionals to support evidence-based decision making, it is clear that it would be an unacceptable risk to bring so many thousands of people together in Orlando next week," said Half Wolf, the society's president and CEO.

Earlier this week, Ellucian Live said on its website that it would no longer hold its April meeting at the Orange County Convention Center because of growing concerns over the coronavirus. It was supposed to attract 8,500 visitors. Officials said the technology conference for higher education officials instead would be conducted virtually.

Demings said a Minecraft conference involving 15,000 video game enthusiasts also was canceled.

Leisure travel doesn't appear to be impacted, Demings said. Orange County is home to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. It attracts some 75 million visitors a year, making it the most visited destination in the U.S.

“Our leisure travelers continue to come to Orange County to enjoy our theme parks, and all that we have to offer," Demings said. “We want to emphasize that we in Orange County are open for business."

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