ORLANDO, Fla. – Travelers at Orlando International Airport said it’s a good thing that the U.S. will allow travel from countries previously banned due to COVID-19 as Central Florida continues to rebound from the pandemic. Airport and tourism leaders say they agree.
This comes as a new Virgin Atlantic flight is scheduled to arrive to Orlando International Airport Monday afternoon from Europe.
“We can’t close it forever,” said Tabitha Wringle, who is traveling from Wisconsin.
Jerry Leonard, who is from Ireland but lives in Atlanta, agreed.
“I think it’s good,” Leonard said. “I’m glad to see it opening back up again.”
Beginning Monday, the U.S. will allow international travel from countries that were previously banned because of COVID, such as South Africa, Brazil, China, and most of Europe.
But for the most part, passengers MUST be vaccinated.
“We have to get there eventually,” Wringle said.
At OIA, the first Virgin Atlantic flight from Manchester, England is scheduled to arrive at 3:05 p.m. Monday.
“I came from overseas so it was a long time before I was able to get back again and I want to go back and see family,” Leonard said. “People want to see each other face-to-face again.”
Visit Orlando said it has been running international campaigns this fall promoting travel to Central Florida.
“We’re excited to have travel back, especially for the holiday season,” said Denise Spiegel, a Visit Orlando spokesperson.
With the border reopening Monday, international seat capacity on flights through OIA has risen by 40,000 from October to November.
“I’m very excited. Business will come back. People have more jobs and people will be much happier and can see their cousins and relatives. It’s very exciting. This is good news,” Israel Orange, who was traveling to Baltimore Monday, said.
It’s scheduled to increase by an additional 88,000 seats from international destinations in December.
“Pre-pandemic international visitors spent more than $6 billion in central Florida, so we excited for that recovery,” Spiegel said.
On Monday, Orange County also released new data on Tourist Development Tax collections.
According to Comptroller Phil Diamond, the county received $16,455,000 in TDT collection for September 2021, which is a 133.8% increase over September 2020.
The data showed September’s collections were lower than August by $7,100 and were $1.3 million lower than September 2019.
Diamond said the collections were the lowest in any pre-pandemic September since 2015, but were also significantly above what they were at the beginning of the pandemic.
October’s TDT collections report will be released in early December.