It was a record-breaking year for Orlando tourism in 2013 with a total of 59 million visitors traveling to the region. Looking back on 2014 and forward to 2015, it could be said that Orlando tourism is experiencing one of the most significant and dynamic expansions in its history.
Where 2014 Has Been
This year, Orlando saw the opening of several new attractions and heard the announcements of additional attractions breaking ground. Openings included Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando Resort, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort and the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World, which will provide a reason for travelers to come back and reconnect with Orlando in the coming years. Walt Disney World Resort also broke ground on Avatar at Animal Kingdom, and Universal Orlando Resort and Loews Hotels and Resorts announced and broke ground on Sapphire Falls Resort.
Looking to 2015, development along I-Drive will continue, with the groundbreaking of Skyplex and the opening of I-Drive 360 in the spring, bringing significant momentum and optimism. The re-imagineering of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs will also continue construction, with the official opening in 2016.
The announcements and openings of these new attractions and resorts have been a few of the most prominent highlights, and other sectors, such as dining, have followed suit in growth as well. The opening of several new dining and nightlife areas on International Drive has sparked a renaissance in the area, and the redevelopment of the Wyndham Orlando Resort on International Drive includes the new I-Shops retail and dining. Universal CityWalk has also opened several new restaurants and eateries.
Looking north to downtown Orlando, its growth and development into a dining and nightlife option for locals and visitors alike is making it a destination in itself. This includes the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the Amway Center development, and redesign and construction of the Citrus Bowl, as well as the new soccer stadium for Orlando City Soccer.
Orlando and Beyond
Looking beyond the borders of the U.S. is essential to continue the momentum of a record-breaking year. The year 2013 brought 4.8 million international visitors to Orlando, and with new initiatives on the horizon, that number is expected to rise even more.
Visitation from South America continues to be a significant driver of increased international travel. Additionally, the U.K. reversed a downward trend in visitation and rebounded slightly in 2013 and is expected to continue, while Canada continues to lead way in overall international visitation.
At Visit Orlando, expanded campaigns have been launched in its largest target markets of Canada (adding Montreal), Brazil (expanding to seven new cities) and the U.K., which targets couples as a way to increase visitation to the destination. Domestically, Visit Orlando’s spring and fall marketing campaigns have helped to increase demand during the slower time frames of May through June and mid-August through September.
Internationally, Visit Orlando continues to look to open new and emerging markets while focusing the majority of its marketing efforts to secure additional market share in Orlando’s top markets of Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The region has been able to garner additional flights from these emerging markets which has especially aided growing the number of visitors from South America.
The continual investment and reinvention of attractions, resorts, dining and more is what sets Orlando as the leader in overall visitation in the nation, and as Orlando continues to evolve and develop, the bottom line will always be to keep visitors coming back for more, each and every year.
One characteristic that differentiates Orlando from most other destinations is its unique ability to constantly evolve. It’s an important part of our history, a large part of our current success and will continue to be critical in the future as we strive to maintain our leadership position as the most visited destination in the United States. Expansions such as the ones referred to in this month’s editorial are a result of a recent injection of more than $5 billion of capital investment made in our destination. Most of these projects have been initiated by the private sector – smart businesspeople with the vision to see the latent needs of consumers…and the savvy to recognize that Orlando’s tourism market represents a strong return on investment. It’s a model that works well for this destination. There are few places in the world that can lay claim to such a unique competitive advantage. When you think about it, travelers who visit natural wonders and historic sites do not want to see them change. However, Orlando occupies a very different, very special spot in the hearts and minds of travel consumers around the world. As we turn the clock on another new year, Orlando is well positioned to continue to attract tens of millions of visitors annually.