Theme parks, hotels packed for Christmas Day

Central Fla. tourism sees boost in December

ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida theme parks are expected to be packed on Christmas Day as thousands celebrate a fun and family-oriented holiday.

Universal Orlando and Disney parks were packed on Tuesday as tourists traveled to Orlando for a warm Christmas and residents surprise their families with a trip to the parks.

Central Florida also saw a boost in traffic at local hotels for holidays for at least one week in December. According to metro Orlando weekly lodging industry results, released by VisitOrlando, Metro Orlando hotel occupancy rates are up 17 percent compared to the Dec. 9-15 in 2011.

All areas of Central Florida, including International Drive, Lake Buena Vista and eastern Kissimmee hotels saw boosts in occupancy rates in the same week in 2012. International Drive was the highest with 25.6 percent.

The national occupancy rate went up 5.4 percent, according to the results.

Meanwhile, Panhandle officials say record numbers of tourists visited northwest Florida this past year.

Walton County collected $16.5 million in bed taxes from October 2011 through September 2012. That broke the record $13.9 million collected in the previous fiscal year.

Okaloosa County brought in $13.2 million in bed taxes, compared with $11.6 million the previous year. Santa Rosa County also improved its bed tax collections from $1.03 million to $1.19 million.

Santa Rosa County Tourism Development Council director Kate Wilkes tells the Northwest Florida Daily News that money from BP after the 2010 oil spill helped promote the Panhandle in markets where officials previously could not afford to advertise, such as Atlanta and Tennessee.

Santa Rosa County also is promoting its eco-tourism options such as zip-lining, biking and reef diving.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.