This year, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining program raised $269,272 for Orange County charities — a 44% increase from 2022. We broke the news during Visit Orlando’s Year End Celebration Luncheon at the Hilton Orlando, which gathered more than 1,000 members, industry professionals and government officials.
A record-breaking 132 restaurants participated in this year’s Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining, including 22 new restaurants to the program. At today’s event, we also recognized top performing restaurants based on donations raised for charity. Congratulations to:
- Seasons 52-Orlando - Top performing restaurant
- The Pinery - Top performing new restaurant: $40 menu
- Ava MediterrAegean - Top performing new restaurant: $60 menu
- The Nauti Lobstah - Largest increase from 2022 to 2023
Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining has raised over $2.5 million for Orange County charities since 2009. The majority of this year’s donation will benefit The Lifeboat Project, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking. A $2,000 donation will also be provided to one local nonprofit in each of Orange County’s six commission districts that provide services and resources to survivors of abuse in Central Florida. They include Mustard Seed of Central Florida, Nuevo Sendero, One Heart for Women and Children, Salvation Army Orlando, Samaritan Village and Wake Up Mentoring.
Thank you to Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings, who attended our luncheon event and shared with the audience Orange County’s continued progress with workforce and affordable housing initiatives.
Terry Prather, Visit Orlando’s Board Chair, elaborated on his key priorities for the organization, which include supporting Visit Orlando’s three-year strategic plan, integrating diversity, equity and inclusion across initiatives, and strengthening the travel and tourism industry.
Also, keynote speaker Will Guidara who delivered an impactful speech on what he calls "Unreasonable Hospitality," the power behind giving people more than they expect. Will shared insights into his recipe for success, emphasizing the importance of embracing accidental moments of kindness and finding ways to build them into everyday business practices. His message was to focus on people, listen and empower staff to capitalize on repeated individual moments that make a difference in people’s lives to stand out in the hospitality industry.
2023-2024 Board of Directors
Our luncheon event also served as Visit Orlando’s Annual Meeting, where the membership votes on new additions to our board of directors. We’re proud to welcome the following leaders to the elected 2024-2025 board slate:
Elected Board of Directors
- David Buckalew – Buckalew Hospitality
- Jarrod Dillon – Orlando City Soccer
- Jennifer Evins – United Arts of Central Florida
- Chris Jaskiewicz (former At-Large) – ICON Park
- David Lutz – Velvet Chainsaw Consulting
- Paul S. Mears, III (former At-Large) – Hello! Destination Management
- Sean Verney – Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
- Terry Prather (2nd Term) – Dr. Phillips Charities
- Atish Shah – Xenia Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
- Erick Hawkins – Orlando Health
We say farewell to Robert Bray, Donna Dyson, Barbara Poma, Fred Sawyers, Thomas Steinhauer, Justin Williams and Evan Wyant. We appreciate their leadership and dedicated service to Visit Orlando, Central Florida and the tourism industry.
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Tourism Matters Newsletter (visitorlando.com)
Orlando's Arts Community Spotlighted in Visit Orlando Blog & Video Series
Our team released a new consumer blog and video series spotlighting Orlando's vibrant and ever-expanding arts community through performing arts, museums, galleries and more. Created in partnership with Cole NeSmith, the founder & artistic director of Creative City Project—an organization that collaborates with local artists to produce innovative arts experiences and cultivate a thriving Orlando arts community—the series currently features 11 different organizations and venues with more to come in the new year! Learn more by visiting the blog and accessing Visit Orlando's Orlando Arts & Culture YouTube playlist, with over 20 videos to explore.
October 2023 TDT Collections
Orange County's Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections for October came in at $29.4 million—a 6.4% decrease compared to October 2022. Collections were higher than September 2023 by $4.8 million and higher than October 2021 by $8 million.
Orange County government designates TDT funds for specific purposes, including promoting tourism, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), sports stadiums and arenas, performing arts venues, museums and events.
Metro Orlando occupancy for the week ending December 2, 2023, was 60.7%, down slightly from last week's 61.3% rate and down 12% from the same week last year. The Average Daily Rate for the week was $178.40, up slightly from last week's $176 but down from the same week last year.
Across the Industry
Florida’s Tourism Industry: Governor DeSantis announced he is recommending $105 million in funding for VISIT FLORIDA for Fiscal Year 2024-2025 as part of his Focus on Florida's Future budget proposal. This endorsement helps ensure VISIT FLORIDA continues its efforts to positively impact Florida’s tourism industry.
U.S. Travel Association: This week, Visit Orlando’s VP of Communications Denise Spiegel attended the U.S. Travel Association’s Communications Advisory Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting gathered travel communications professionals from around the county for education sessions, updates on U.S. Travel Association's priorities, projects and key messaging.
Around the Destination
GoPegasus: Congratulations to GoPegasus for Celebrating 30 Years of Success in the travel and hospitality industry. In October, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings issued an official proclamation recognizing October 14, 2023, as "GoPegasus 30 Years Anniversary Day." We’re proud to have GoPegasus as a Visit Orlando member and look forward to its continued success in providing transportation for the Orange County Convention Center and Orlando’s millions of visitors.
Destination Tourism Master Plan Steering Committee: Visit Orlando is developing a Destination Tourism Master Plan to inform and guide the creation of a roadmap and 10-year vision for visitor-based economic growth and development for Orange County. The benefit of destination planning is that it connects the dots between the visitor economy, economic development and community well-being. Critical to this work will be the input of our stakeholders and residents. This week, Visit Orlando invited community leaders to join a kickoff meeting of the Destination Tourism Master Plan Steering Committee that will guide the development of this strategy and act as champions throughout the implementation process. We are still seeking feedback for the plan, so if you have not yet participated in a destination survey, we invite you to share your feedback here: DestinationNEXT 2.0 - Orlando Survey
Business Roundtable: The Orlando Economic Partnership hosted a business roundtable discussion with Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-FL, 10). The meeting introduced Congressman Frost to business leaders throughout the region and provided an opportunity to advocate for the issues that most affect the tourism industry. Visit Orlando’s Senior Legal Counsel & VP of External Affairs Stan Rubins attended on behalf of our team.
Visit Orlando Engaged!
LATAM Media Meeting: Visit Orlando connected with journalists Claudia Gonzalez and Adrian Bertini, representing leading media outlets Ladevi and PANROTAS. The multimedia channels are leading publishers in content production for tourism professionals across Latin America, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Brazil. The meeting focused on ways to continue positioning Orlando as a top leisure and business destination for the LATAM market.
M&C Press Trip: Visit Orlando hosted a Meetings & Conventions press trip, visiting locations including the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, the Brightline Orlando Station, the Orlando Health Virtual Care Center at the Orange County Convention Center and several new hotel properties appealing to meetings and events. Throughout the activities, our team shared how Orlando continues to evolve as a meeting destination by increasing accessibility with new transportation initiatives and adding new venues, accommodations and meetings services. Participating media outlets included Meetings Today, Smart Meetings, PREVUE and NorthStar.
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