ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Although the new omicron variant has not been detected in Central Florida, Orange County and Orlando officials tell News 6 it’s a matter of wait-and-see in terms of how it could affect tourism in the area.
“At this point, we’re still monitoring the new omicron variant. It’s not yet here and the indications are early that if you are vaccinated, you’ll have minor symptoms,” said Jerry Demings, mayor of Orange County. “Our experience at this point is we know how to manage it. We have already taken the precautions and instituted, I believe, some of the state-of-the-art sanitary measures within our various hotels, facilities, convention center, so I believe we’re going to be fine.”
With tourism continuing to bounce back in Central Florida, local leaders remain hopeful for a full economic recovery.
“I think our community has worked together very well to be one of the safest communities. That’s not to say we couldn’t have another surge, so it’s important to be ready to fall back on safety measures that we need to take,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
Theme parks continue to be an economic driving force for Central Florida.
“There’s some concern but I don’t believe there’s a need to panic so we want to encourage everyone to be responsible but come on to Central Florida, come to Orlando, Orange County. Visit Disney World, visit the other parks,” Orlando city commissioner Bakari Burns said.
According to Orange County’s Tourist Development Tax collections, October saw a 177.6% increase compared to the same month last year.
“October’s usually a pretty good month. This year it was a pretty good month. It was about 21,400,000. That beat September’s number by about 5 million,” Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said.
In 2019, the County collected almost $300 million.
“I really think it needs to be in that ballpark or better to say that we’ve come back,” Diamond said. “If (COVID-19) is out there and it’s prevalent, and people are getting sick and potential travelers are hearing about (that), the numbers are going to go down.”