Last year, 72 million visitors came to Orlando, once again making us America’s most-visited destination. But what’s behind that record-breaking achievement? Who, exactly, are the people traveling here? And have we kept up the momentum in 2018? Economist Daryl Cronk, senior director of market research and insights at Visit Orlando, breaks it down.
Which countries provided the most visitors to Orlando in 2017?
Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil remained our largest international markets, accounting for nearly half of the 6.15 million annual visitors from other countries. While visitation from Canada and the U.K. saw minimal growth from 2016 — in large part because of economic headwinds and a strengthening U.S. dollar — we did see a 16 percent spike from Brazil, a key international country for Orlando that rebounded from two years of declines due to a deep recession. And that’s welcome news because Brazilians spend more money, per person, in our destination than visitors from our other core markets.
What about our top domestic markets?
The biggest region we target is the highly populated Interstate 95 corridor, especially in the Northeast. Outside of Florida, our top five states are New York, Georgia, Texas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
How did business travel to Orlando fare in 2017?
It was a very good year for the meetings and conventions industry. The Orange County Convention Center set all-time highs for attendance, group occupancy at hotels continued to rise, we held the nation’s second-highest number of Top 250 shows and — for the sixth time in seven years — Orlando was Cvent’s top-ranked meetings destination.
Over the past two decades, what has been the year of the biggest growth? The least?
In 2010, the first bounce-back year from the Great Recession, we saw our largest yearly increase in visitors (10.5 percent). Conversely, visitation had fallen 4.7 percent the year before in 2009. But our biggest annual drop was actually 2001 (the year of another recession, as well as the 9/11 attacks), when 6.2 percent fewer people came to Orlando.
Should we expect a repeat performance in 2018?
So far, so good. The first half of 2018 experienced healthy gains in many key indicators, including lodging metrics, air passenger traffic and Tourist Development Tax collections. Leading indicators for the second half of 2018 are generally positive. Attendance at the Orange County Convention Center and airline seat capacity to Orlando are up while advance hotel bookings are on par with the same time last year. International factors to keep an eye on include the value of the U.S. dollar, trade negotiations and Brexit, but the strong U.S. economy is expected to support continued growth in travel.
President & CEO of Visit Orlando
THE FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
Investments and Marketing Drive Central Florida’s Growth
“Why do people keep coming back to Orlando in record numbers?” It’s a question I get asked a lot. At its core, the answer is twofold: investment and marketing.
Year after year, our world-famous theme parks and attractions keep the destination fresh by adding blockbuster new experiences that wow visitors the world over.
Think of everything that came online in 2017 alone: Universal’s Volcano Bay, Disney’s Pandora – The World of Avatar and SeaWorld’s Kraken Unleashed VR roller coaster, just to name a few. On International Drive, we saw the launch of Topgolf Orlando, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games and iFly Indoor Skydiving. And in the sporting world, Orlando began hosting the NFL Pro Bowl, opened a new soccer stadium and welcomed the USTA National Campus. On every front, our destination is constantly evolving, expanding and improving through new-product investment.
The second part of the equation is getting the word out through strong global marketing.
As the only official organization that markets the entire destination, not just one park or attraction, Visit Orlando engages consumers, travel professionals and meetings and conventions clients to choose Orlando for their next vacation or convention. Complementing the advertising and publicity efforts of our member companies, Visit Orlando works to grow visitation by keeping our destination top of mind among target audiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America and beyond.
All of this, of course, helps create an atmosphere where Orlando now welcomes upward of 72 million visitors each year. And with a strong combination of investment and marketing, our destination will only continue to build on that success.