Spring break season is upon us, and Central Florida’s hospitality industry is in full swing.
In fact, more than 7 million passengers are expected to travel through Orlando’s International Airport (MCO) through April 18, an expected 13 percent increase over last year according to a press release.
If You Build It, They Will Come
“The big theme parks have been reporting record park performance and attendance this last year,” noted Scott Wall, Regions Commercial Banking Leader for Central Florida. “All three are investing big numbers within the Central Florida Market community including a new theme park for Universal, while Walt Disney World and SeaWorld are both unveiling new rides.”
Orlando rounds out the top three U.S. markets for hospitality. That translates into a $31 billion industry spanning across six counties in Central Florida.
The tourism industry in Orlando:
- Generates $67.1 billion in economic benefit to the community.
- Supports 392,300 jobs (31 percent of the workforce).
- Pays $21.4 billion in compensation.
- Provides $5.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.
- Generates over 50 percent of the Orange County sales tax collection.
The optimism in Orlando isn’t just fueled by signs of growth from the local theme parks. The cruise industry and hotel industry are both showing an uptick in bookings and reporting strong numbers. Hotel rooms and rates are back to pre-pandemic levels – and rising.
“Central Florida continues to be one of the most visited regions in the country and the trends remain very positive as we start 2023 and look forward,” Wall added. “Year-over-year we are seeing increases in hotel bookings and theme park attendance and traffic at both the airport and cruise port on the coast.”
“The national tourism economy is one of contradiction”, according to Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. Wall sat down with Matej recently to talk about the outlook for the industry and impact on the market.
Matej expressed optimism about the region from her stakeholders and noted that travelers were cautiously optimistic, even with high inflation and interest rates. She also stated that the domestic leisure traveler and group/convention booking was starting to pick up steam.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Another area of the hospitality sector, air travel, is also back to pre-pandemic levels with the airport hosting 50 million passengers in 2022. With the opening of the newly constructed Terminal C, MCO has made tremendous investments in its continued growth.
Speaking of transportation, you may have heard of Brightline Florida. The new Orlando station is scheduled to open at MCO this year. Connecting Orlando to existing stations in Miami, Aventura, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, this infrastructure project creates a new high speed train transportation option, potentially connecting even more visitors to the region.
“Central Florida continues to be one of the most visited regions in the country and the trends remain very positive as we start 2023 and look forward.”
Scott Wall, Regions Commercial Banking Leader for Central Florida
Minor Headwinds Aren’t Slowing the Local Economy
One notable headwind is in international travel. That cohort has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, as obtaining a travel Visa is taking much longer than it used to take. Wait times have stretched from 60 days pre-pandemic to waits now of up to one year.
Restaurants are another segment that experienced significant disruptions during the pandemic.
“It was a tough time for the restaurant sector locally in the year after Covid started,” said Wall. “While consumers seem excited and ready to come back out for a dining experience, the current level of inflation, especially around food costs, have definitely made it a more expensive outing for families.”
Wall noted that restaurant owners are acutely aware of this dynamic and there seems to be a big focus around menus and how innovation and value can meet up to provide diners the best possible experience.
“Fun fact – according to the National Restaurant Association, two of the top five hot trends for 2023 include charcuterie boards and comfort food,” said Wall, who noted that Central Florida is home to 33 Michelin-rated restaurants.
Central Florida is home to 33 Michelin-rated restaurants.
Wall hosted a podcast episode on Regions’ Commercial Insights last year where he took a look at some of the trends within the hospitality industry and how it fared in 2022.
“I am very excited about all that is happening in this town, including the new theme park and new rides and roller coasters, as well as the Brightline train that is just around the corner, which will bring South Florida right to our doorstep,” said Wall.
Regions has been growing throughout Central Florida. Read about the recent growth: