The big return? Visit Orlando expects busy Spring Break

'We are excited by what we are seeing looking ahead to the spring break travel season.'

Visit Orlando’s CEO expects a busy Spring Break in the theme park capital of the world.

The tourism industry is still recovering from the pandemic, but early signs show travelers will return to Orlando this spring during what’s an important holiday period for hotels and attractions, said Visit Orlando’s President and CEO Casandra Matej.

“We are excited by what we are seeing looking ahead to the spring break travel season,” Matej said in a statement released Thursday. “Current leisure advance hotel bookings for travel to Orlando in March and April are pacing at 82% and 88% of pre-pandemic levels, respectively.”

But Matej acknowledged the situation can also change quickly, such as the case when concerns over the omicron variant forced many to cancel or delay their travel plans in January.

Orange County’s hotel tax revenue is one way to measure if the tourists are coming, and for January, the 6% surcharge on short-term rentals generated $22.4 million.

“Month-over-month, January collections were lower than December collections by $5.8 million and were lower than January 2020 collections by $3.6 million,” Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said in a press release.

In January, metro Orlando’s hotel occupancy averaged 59%, down from about 75% in pre-pandemic January 2019, according to Visit Orlando.

But February is more promising, Matej said.

“Despite a slower start to the year, we saw in February that the decline of omicron, winter breaks in northern states and the holiday weekend helped boost Orlando’s lodging performance,” Matej said.
“Advance hotel bookings suggest that February 2022 will reach 82% of pre-pandemic levels, with leisure bookings pacing at 92% of pre-pandemic.”

Helping elevate the hotel occupancy were also thousands of visitors going to two major Orange County Convention Center shows in early February. NAHB International Builders’ Show and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show drew 70,000 attendees to the convention center, according to Visit Orlando.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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