Florida’s annual legislative session is underway, and we are working with our partners locally, regionally and statewide to advocate on behalf of the tourism industry.

Last week, our team joined Destinations Florida and a statewide delegation of colleagues in Tallahassee. Our goal was to educate policymakers about the current challenges facing our industry and express gratitude to Central Florida representatives for their steadfast support. This week, I returned to Tallahassee, alongside the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, for a continuation of Florida Tourism Days. Together, we delved into discussions on important bills and the future trajectory of VISIT FLORIDA.

Why it's important: The partnership between Visit Orlando and VISIT FLORIDA has been instrumental in expanding our outreach to a wider audience through co-op advertising campaigns, targeted missions and various other opportunities. VISIT FLORIDA's impactful initiatives have brought millions of visitors and billions of dollars, significantly benefiting local communities statewide.

We support the Governor's proposed budget, which includes $105 million in continued funding for VISIT FLORIDA. Currently, the Senate is proposing $80 million, which is consistent with the current fiscal year. However, the House has suggested only $30 million.

How you can help: I urge you to contact your Orange County state delegation to help ensure VISIT FLORIDA continues to have stable funding. Your support will allow us to maintain our strong local-state partnership to achieve our mission of becoming the most visited, welcoming and inclusive travel destination in the world.

Other tourism bills we're watching: In addition, we are also closely monitoring bills that would impact the allocation of county-based Tourist Development Taxes. SB 1748 by Senator Brodeur and its House counterpart HB 1599 by Representative Truenow would require a supermajority vote of the county’s governing board to spend more than 25 percent of the TDT on an individual project. The Senate bill was passed by the Finance and Tax committee yesterday. Other TDT-related bills we are watching include:

We will keep you updated as Florida’s Legislative Session continues. Should you have questions regarding our advocacy efforts, please reach out and our team will provide more information.


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Orlando Featured in Netflix Series: Somebody Feed Phil

We pitched Phil Rosenthal, host of Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil” and creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” on including Orlando in his series which resulted in us taking him on a culinary adventure around our destination! In the series, Orlando will be one of only eight cities (and one of two U.S. destinations) profiled in Season 7, beginning March 1, of the popular Netflix show starring Phil Rosenthal in his unscripted culinary travel series. Orlando’s Crocante Restaurant and Chef Yamuel Bigio are featured in the Season 7 promotional video. Take a first look here.

Transportation Work Session

Earlier this week, Orange County Mayor Demings and the Board of County Commissioners conducted a work session, reaching a consensus to explore the possibility of implementing a sales tax aimed at funding essential transportation improvements. The previous Orange County Transportation Initiative, featuring a proposed penny sales tax, could have generated an annual revenue of $600 million. In the current discussions, adjustments are being contemplated, such as potentially opting for a half-penny tax increase instead of a full penny, reducing the proposed tax collection duration from 20 to 10 years, and enhancing transparency in demonstrating the tangible benefits to residents.

A subsequent workshop is scheduled for March to delve further into these deliberations. Addressing the transportation gap within our community is paramount. Investing in such endeavors is vital to keeping pace with the region's growth, attracting businesses, improving accessibility, and ultimately enhancing the overall quality of life for all residents, including those within our industry's workforce. We commend the mayor and the commission for engaging in this discussion and we will be following closely as it develops. You can read more on the discussion here.

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Data & Trends

Metro Orlando occupancy for the week ending February 3, 2024, was 75.1%, up 5.3% from the same week last year. Average Daily Rate for the week was $208.72, up 6.7% from the same week last year. Orlando’s hotels were kept busy last week thanks to MegaCon, U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon and NFL Pro Bowl activities.

December 2023 TDT Collections: Orange County's Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections for December 2023 came in at $29.8 million—a 4.4% decrease compared to December 2022's record high. December 2023 collections were higher than November 2023 collections by $160,100 and higher than December 2021 collections by $1.5 million.

Orlando and Florida’s overall travel performance shifted and rebalanced in 2023 as the domestic leisure travel surge from 2022 faded and travelers returned to other U.S. and international destinations. Looking at the full year 2023, metro Orlando occupancy trailed slightly behind 2022 with the average of 72.7% verses 73.4% in 2022.

Across the Industry

The Plastics Show: Visit Orlando’s Chief Sales Officer Mike Waterman recently did an interview with Plastics News, a trade media outlet which covers the global plastics industry, to highlight Orlando and promote its upcoming NPE 2024: The Plastics Show, May 6-10, at the Orange County Convention Center. The show is projected to bring in 55,000 attendees. Promoting all Orlando has to offer for meetings groups and attendees once the meeting day is done is key to supporting local area businesses that benefit from large trade shows and conventions. It also helps to support our clients' efforts to increase their registration numbers, which can go a long way in planners bringing groups back to Orlando or booking multiple years.

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CFHLA Foundation Scholarship: The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association Foundation is now accepting applications for its CFHLA Employee & Family Member Scholarships. Applicants must be the family member or employee of a CFHLA lodging member establishment or a CFHLA Allied Member Company. Additionally, the CFHLA Foundation offers students pursuing a degree, minor, or certificate at Central Florida Hospitality & Culinary Programs—to advance Hospitality Education. For more details, click here.

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Florida Huddle Trade Show: Visit Orlando’s travel industry sales team participated in Florida Huddle, VISIT FLORIDA’s premiere trade show in Miami. Florida Huddle serves the international travel trade industry and highlights the best of our state to tour operators and wholesalers from both domestic and key international markets. Visit Orlando participates to foster connections with key leaders in the industry and further develop business in Orlando. Across the two-day event, the team held over 95 appointments with travel buyers from Canada, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Colombia. Additionally, Visit Orlando hosted a signature client event providing further networking opportunities for over 40 members in attendance.

Around the Destination

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"Know Your Place" Film: Heart of Florida United Way will premiere ”Know Your Place”—a film that shares personal stories of Central Floridians who have faced racism, segregation and bias throughout their lives. Local leaders, including Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, State Sen. Geraldine Thompson and former Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry, among others, are featured. “Know Your Place” will air commercial-free and uninterrupted on WFTV Channel 9 on Saturday, Feb. 10, starting at 7 p.m. Tune in to see the full-length feature.

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Pictured L to R: Visit Orlando team members Wesley Costa, Kathy Brown and Ian Suarez attend the Hispanic Chamber’s Ignite Luncheon.

Ignite Luncheon: The Hispanic Chamber of Metro Orlando hosted the 2024 Ignite Luncheon in Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The event aims to spark new opportunities that drive economic growth by showcasing the pivotal role that Hispanic businesses play in the region's economic landscape. Congratulations to Pedro Turushina on being named the Hispanic Chamber’s President & CEO! Learn more about the event here.

Visit Orlando Engaged!

New Philharmonic Executive: Visit Orlando was honored to host a welcome reception for Karina Bharne, the Orlando Philharmonic’s new executive director, at the Citrus Club. As a seasoned orchestra executive with over 15 years of experience, Karina has also worked with the San Antonio Symphony. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra serves as Central Florida’s only professional orchestra, performing in over 150 concerts annually throughout Central Florida, including Steinmetz Hall.

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U.S. Olympic Trials - Marathon: To maximize the opportunity of hosting the U.S. Olympic Trials - Marathon in our destination, Visit Orlando promoted the event with organic and paid social posts, online display advertising, commercials during the broadcast as well as bumpers targeting fans to increase overnight visitation. In addition, we hosted an activation during the athletes VIP reception at Universal Orlando Resorts and on the front lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to our team cheering on U.S. Olympic runners as they competed on their journey to Paris, tens of thousands of residents joined the live event, filling downtown Orlando. Congratulations to our partners at GO Sports for leading this initiative! 

Pro Bowl Games: During the same weekend as the U.S. Olympic Trials, our destination was also in the spotlight as the host city for the 2024 Pro Bowl Games, a star-studded multi-day competition culminating in a Sunday Championship game at Camping World Stadium. Thank you to Florida Citrus Sports for bringing this high-profile event back to our community!