Booked: Spring Breakers help pack Disney World, Orlando hotels

The tourists are expected to keep coming.

Orlando’s hotels haven’t been this busy since the pandemic first began — a sign the world’s theme park capital is getting back to normal. The record-breaking metro Orlando hotel occupancy hit 90.5% during March 13-19 which beat the previous record of 85.9% set in late February, according to Visit Orlando.

“Our destination has hit a major milestone in our ongoing recovery, thanks to Spring Break visitors,” said Visit Orlando’s President and CEO Casandra Matej.

If you have been to Disney World lately, the news won’t come as a surprise. Midwesterners escaping the still chilly Spring temperatures and others are flocking to Orlando to visit the theme parks and stay at hotels.

Visit Orlando said Orlando’s occupancy was the second-highest among the Top 25 U.S. markets, falling just behind Tampa.

Higher hotel occupancy means more money generated by the county’s hotel tax, too.

For February, the 6% tax generated $28.36 million — a significant jump, said Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond.

“Month-over-month, February collections were higher than January collections by $5.9 million and were higher than February 2020 collections by $255,800,” Diamond’s office said in a press release issued Wednesday. “These were the highest February collections ever and the third-highest monthly collections ever.”

The tourists are expected to keep coming, Visit Orlando said.

April’s hotel occupancy is on pace to reach about 94% of the pre-pandemic 2019 levels which Visit Orlando called “moving in the right direction.”

More big events also are on the calendar over the next few months which will likely help attract crowds.

The U.S. Travel Association’s IPW is billed as the “Super Bowl of the Travel Industry” and is expected to bring in more than 4,500 attendees from 62 different countries when the travel trade show is hosted at the Orange County Convention Center in early June, Visit Orlando said. Those attendees will bring mass numbers of people staying in hotel rooms, eating at restaurants and looking for entertainment during their downtime in Central Florida.

It’s the first time the event is coming back to Orlando since 2015.

“The 2022 timing allows for Orlando to take center stage as the world returns to travel,” according to Visit Orlando, adding “Past IPW events have generated upward of $500 million in economic impact to the host city.”

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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