Orlando, Fla. ( Associated Press) – It’s an idea that sounds almost exactly like Mickey and Minnie’s. Take the millions of tourists who are thinking of visiting Central Florida’s theme parks each year and sell them on properties to take their companies or businesses to the area. Orlando has been a tourist center for half a century, it was not until now.
The quasi-public agencies that typically promote tourism and economic development separately in Orlando announced Monday that they are joining forces to market the region under the same brand. With a tagline of “incredibly genuine”, the branding plan will be aimed at tourists, meeting planners, conference callers, business relocation specialists, site selectors, business owners and company CEOs. About $23 million will be spent on it this year.
The branding plan was announced as officials reported 59.3 million tourists visited Orlando in 2021. This represents an increase of 68% over the 2020 pandemic-stricken numbers, but it is still less than 80% of the pre-pandemic figures of 2019.
“Looking at 2021, we’re starting to see some really strong numbers,” said Cassandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit Orlando.
The branding plan highlights Orlando’s economic prowess in digital game development and military simulation, combined with its tourist attractions, outdoor activities, and its cultural, sports and dining scenes. It will debut on Monday with television and digital commercials in New York, Chicago and Boston, as well as a mural in Brooklyn, New York.
Target tells “the whole story of Orlando,” Matej said. “Although we may have different target audiences, there is a lot of relationship between those audiences.”
Officials said with the rise of remote working during the pandemic, the timing of United Branding seemed right.
“The same person making the corporate relocation decision is probably the same person who is moving their family to Orlando and has probably attended a meeting here over the years,” said Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership. “When people come to us about relocating to Orlando, it’s not their first time in Orlando. It’s a global brand.”
Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and the long-awaited Guardians of the Galaxy debuts at its Epcot Park later this month. But it’s not just rides that stand to entice more visitors.
Orlando International Airport is nearing completion of its largest expansion to date, which includes 15 gates that can accommodate an additional 10 million to 12 million passengers annually. Private Brightline train service is also expanding into Orlando next year, offering a two-hour ride from South Florida to Orlando Airport.
The expanded capacity at Orlando International Airport represents a further synergy between tourism and economic development. Driven by the tourism market, the expansion will bring more airlines and travel routes to Orlando, making the area more attractive to companies or businesses that want to relocate, Giuliani said.
“It creates tremendous connectivity,” Giuliani said. “As more companies have global interests, concerns, connectivity allows Orlando to compete with any city.”
Tourism numbers released Monday by Visit Orlando reflect the ways in which visitors to Orlando have been affected by the pandemic restrictions. Growth from 2020 to 2021 was driven by domestic visitors, with business and international tourists lagging behind in growth. While domestic trips increased by 70%, it increased by about 54% for business and 25.7% for international travellers.
In an effort to control the coronavirus, the US imposed border restrictions on non-essential travel from Canada and Mexico. Many of those restrictions were lifted last November, but international travelers still need to be vaccinated and those traveling by air must show a negative coronavirus test.
Before the pandemic, domestic leisure trips in 2021 were up 85% in 2019. In 2021 the number was two-thirds in 2019 for domestic business travel and less than a third for international trips.
After the US lifted some pandemic restrictions last November, Orlando began to see an uptick in international visitors from its most popular, Matej said.
“We started seeing real interest from our core markets as soon as the engagement rules changed in November,” said Matej. “We are expecting a 100% recovery internationally by 2023.”
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