ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando’s tourism industry may not be in full swing but tourism and county experts believe that June could be a turning point for the tourism economy of the most-visited destination in the world, which has taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic.
Hyatt Regency Orlando, one of the largest hotels in Central Florida’s tourism district, opened its doors Wednesday for the first time since March. SeaWorld is also opening its doors on Thursday. The latest reopenings come one week after an Orange County Comptroller’s report showed that the tourism development tax dollars dropped 97% percent in March, the busiest month of the year for tourism, according to County Comptroller Phil Diamond. Diamond said last year in March, the county collected nearly $27 million in TDT dollars. This March, less than $800,000 was collected.
“I think everybody had been expecting bad numbers, but I don’t think anyone was expecting numbers that bad,” Diamond said Wednesday. “I am feeling hopeful for June. I think it will be better than what we talked about last week and hopefully by a lot.”
Tourism experts believe the reopening of Universal Orlando last week and SeaWorld this week, along with dozens of hotels can help bring the tax dollars back up.
"We are seeing the impact slowly coming back," said George Ageul, CEO and President of VisitOrlando. "Having seeing Universal kicking off, SeaWorld following and naturally Disney coming into their own in July is big news."
Aguel said according to research done by VisitOrlando, about 67% of the people surveyed want to travel again, as long as they believe it is safe. Aguel also said most of them want to drive, which is why VisitOrlando is targeting the drive-in market.
"We know that we are going to see most of our business to come from within the state," Aguel said. "Florida is certainly one of our top markets. South Florida is a big part of it, the Tampa Bay area is a big factor as well.
Aguel said VisitOrlando is also marketing its way up north.
“We are going up to Tennessee, North Carolina particularly. Atlanta is a huge place for us,” he said.
On Wednesday, News 6 spoke with a father and daughter coming back from the SeaLife Aquarium on International Drive who said they were visiting from Kentucky.
“It took us a 12-hour drive to get here,” David Watkins said.
As far as the hotels, President of the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association Rich Maladecki said about 50% of them will be reopening between June and July, celebrating the opening of the Hyatt Regency Orlando on Wednesday.
“To have that property reopen after the management having to layoff 1,000-1,200 individuals is a positive sign we are moving in the right direction,” Maladecki said. “I want your viewers to celebrate another step in the right direction for the Orlando tourism industry.”
The Hyatt Regency Orlando’s area Vice President, Brian Comes, released the following statement about their reopening, also outlining the safety measures they have put in place for guests:
"Providing a safe, healthy environment for our guests and colleagues is always a top priority for Hyatt Regency Orlando – even more so today.
Hyatt Regency Orlando has enhanced operational protocols and cleaning measures in place, including placing hand sanitizers in various public areas throughout the hotel, initiating high-touch cleaning measures on things like elevator buttons, doorknobs, and places like public areas, restaurants, meeting spaces, fitness center and guestrooms. Furthermore, in an effort to ensure our guests remain in a healthy and safe environment the hotel has created the position of Hygiene and Well-being Leader. This individual will be the leader at the hotel level to administer and support colleagues and guests as it relates to safety and well-being. Key areas that the hotel has enhanced for social distancing are:
- Rearranging furniture in public spaces, restaurants
- Social distancing signage and/or floor decals through public areas, including the lobby, restaurants, market, fitness center, spa, taxi stand, valet, etc.
- Providing pre-arrival and in-stay communication with guests regarding contactless delivery of amenities
We continue to follow procedures and protocols developed in consideration of guidance and information from various health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local authorities and other leading organizations and experts. We will make operational changes and consider additional precautionary measures, as necessary."