Visitors flood Central Florida’s attractions and venues, not just theme parks

Businesses welcome the crowds, but will COVID cases surge?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Neither the Orlando or Orange County mayors are worried “as much” about visitors flocking to Central Florida’s theme parks over the coming days and weeks of the holiday season but not all tourists are headed to the parks.

“People flying in and going to Disney or Universal, those are two safer places I can think of to go and not worry as much about whether you might contract COVID because of the social distancing and other practices that they put in place,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Monday. “Are we concerned that people might be traveling here with COVID and spread it? And of course we worry about every aspect of being affected with COVID.”

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Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said it’s a balancing act.

“The ability of our businesses and others to safely operate and to make profit,” Demings said. “So we’re balancing this as the best as we can, I think, and so it may be a good thing that people feel safe traveling here, you know, it kind of speaks to the type of community that we have. So I would celebrate that at the same time but certainly would, you know, can’t say I don’t have any concerns about it because I do.”

But News 6 discovered many of the visitors coming through the Orlando International Airport or driving into Central Florida aren’t or aren’t only headed to the theme parks.

Visitors from all over the country are scattering to all corners of Central Florida over the holidays.

The Barth family from Georgia came with their eight children to “explore Orlando.”

They are staying in the tourist district of Orlando, planning to shop and eat along International Drive, experience the smaller attractions and visit the beaches.

Why did they choose Central Florida? The weather and the lack of COVID-related restrictions.

According to the Florida Department of Health website, “Currently, the state of Florida has no travel restrictions in place.”

“It was one of the biggest [factors in our] decisions,” the Barths said. “And of course in Georgia it’s cold. It’s nice and warm here.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled back travel restrictions in August. On Tuesday, DeSantis extended his Executive Order protecting businesses from COVID enforcement-related fines.

On Monday, Demings said Orlando’s International Airport was the second busiest in the country for the past several days since the pandemic first hit.

Some airlines are upgrading aircraft size and rerouting their biggest planes to Orlando.

Businesses hit hard by the pandemic are welcoming the crowds after months of lost revenue. DeSantis has said the state would not shut down again.

But are the throngs of tourists putting Central Florida at risk for another Coronavirus surge?

News 6 asked DeSantis’ office again on Tuesday how the Governor feels about the influx of visitors to Florida and again received no response.

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