How Visit Orlando’s brand-new CEO plans to carry Orlando’s tourism back

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 Visit Orlando is beginning a fresh year with a fresh campaign and latest CEO and President Casandra Metaj.

“My priority is centered on recovery, recovery, recovery,” Metaj said Tuesday.

She'll have her work cut out for her as the Central Florida tourism industry continues to slowly rebound from the April pandemic closures.

This comes 1 day after the Orange County Comptroller’s office released December’s tourism development tax dollar collection. The county collecting $10,592,000 that is a 59% lower from the December 2019, according to the data. However, it had been the eighth consecutive month that collections improved from the devastating hit Orlando’s tourism took in April.

“Although the steady regular increases in collections are confident news, $10,592,000 continues to be less than we've collected in and pre-pandemic month since September 2010. And, it really is less than we've collected in virtually any December since 2005,” explained Orange County comptroller Phil Gemstone Monday.

Go to Orlando also released data that showed resort occupancy was the best since the pandemic began the week after Holiday in December at 50.1%. It had been even higher on New Year’s Eve with 63.4% of the hotels booked that night.

“We remain well below prior yr amounts,” said Daryl Cronk, senior director of market research at Visit Orlando. “We averaged 50% occupancy for that period. Last year we were near to 90% and on New Year’s Eve, we'd see levels in mid-90s hence generally pretty full.”

According to Visit Orlando, the holiday period also brought “the best average daily costs for destination hotels because the pandemic began, $111.99 for the week of Dec. 27, resulting in the primary week to average more than $100 since the beginning of March.”


However, the holiday boost is likely to come again down through the slower, off-season months around Christmas and Easter.

It’s why Visit Orlando is launching a fresh campaign called “THE SWEETNESS Remains” targeting in major markets out-of-express for the very first time because the pandemic began.

“For a while Visit Orlando, was centered on local staycations,” Matej explained. “But it is the first campaign that people are launching that's going outside of Florida.”

Visit Orlando is also targeting new states they are seeing more families traveling from, like Texas.

“So far as origin market segments, we are staring to note, Texas and we think that that’s partly because of the parks are open right here and in California remain closed,” Cronk said.

Matej said the brand new campaign is a full include TV, radio, magazine ads and target states like Georgia, Alabama and the southeast.

“Research implies that the desire to visit is increasing so you want to take and captivate that,” Matej said. “In addition, it invites those persons that will be ready to travelling and informs them that Orlando is wide open and a safe destination to work.”

Matej also said portion of the campaign focuses on safety and credits the partnerships from the airport terminal, theme parks, hotels and restaurants for promoting safety.

“Component of our messaging to probable visitors is they have a good shared responsibility so when they do come, there is a mask protocol and there are items they have to follow to remain safe,” she added.


For the short term, Matej stated her goal of these slow winter season is to sustain and keep the current shows scheduled at the Orange County Convention Center and see if there are any opportunities to relocate shows from cities still turn off to Orange County.

“There are opportunities to relocate a few of that business,” she said.

Then the goal is to look towards the Springtime Break and summer seasons, the busiest seasons for Orlando’s tourism and seasons also devastated by the shutdown this past year. The cheapest tourism development tax collection was reported in April with simply a 12% average occupancy in the accommodations, according to Visit Orlando.

“We know there are still going to be short-term difficult weeks, but our focus at this time is making sure springtime and summer are strong for our community,” Metaj said. “There exists a lot of key marketplaces showing interest in Go to Orlando and we realize that because they're coming to our website.” 

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