ORLANDO, Fla. – Hotel industry experts came together with local leaders in Orlando on Tuesday to discuss the need for business travel to return to Central Florida.
While leisure travel has bounced back from the pandemic, large-scale business meetings and events have not seen the same rebound.
According to a study by Visit Orlando, nationwide business travel is down 85% from pre-pandemic levels and is not expected to fully return until 2024. As of June, group travel in Orlando was 67% lower than levels in 2019.
Chip Rogers, who is the president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, attended Tuesday’s meeting at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.
“Leisure travel alone cannot make our industry survive,” Rogers said. “We have to have this convention center filled. There have to be meetings, there have to be conferences.”
Rogers emphasized that the reduction in business travel can have long-term effects on a tourism-dependent state like Florida.
With the industry not expected to see a full return until 2024, the AHLA is promoting its Safe Stay Guidelines, which are designed to help hotels remain safe as meetings and events resume.
“It’s important we show the world we are a safe community to travel to and having our hotels safe is probably just as important as having our theme parks be safe,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
On the state level, another pressing issue is the labor shortage facing the hotel industry. The head of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association said the hope is that changes in unemployment will encourage a turnaround in filling open positions in the coming months.