ORLANDO, Fla. – According to Visit Orlando, seats on international flights to Orlando International Airport are projected to double by December. This means a boost in tourism dollars for Central Florida before the end of the year.
“The airlines are already getting calls and making reservations, as well as hotel companies. It really is an amazing impact,” said Visit Orlando CEO Casandra Matej.
Matej and her team were in Las Vegas at an international travel show talking to potential clients, as news came that the U.S. is easing international travel restrictions.
“The energy level elevated and the conversation changed. It went from ‘when things open’ to ‘now we know when, so let’s talk about next steps.’”
Matej says International visitors spend about $6 billion in Orlando every year. The pandemic - cutting International travel to the city by 74% from 2019 to 2020, according to Visit Orlando.
“Those international travelers, they stay longer, they spend more money, they experience an entire region. So they are key to the travel sector of Central Florida,” said Matej.
Central Florida’s tourism continues to bounce back after taking a huge hit during the pandemic. More than $24.7 million dollars in tourism development tax was collected in July, according to the Orange County comptroller. That’s more than the revenue collected the same month in 2019 pre-pandemic and during heavy international travel restrictions.
“What that shows, is there were new opportunities domestically and then when you add international visitation, we could have some amazing numbers,” Matej said.
Matej said we can expect a gradual increase in international travel to Orlando at the end of the year. With travel skyrocketing in 2022. Visit Orlando said while Canada and Mexico are big markets for Central Florida, the UK is the top market for international travel to Orlando.
The new travel rules will require all foreign travelers arriving to the U.S. to show proof of being fully vaccinated, and those returning to the U.S. from abroad will have to undergo COVID tests prior to their return flight. Those rules go into effect in November.