Orlando is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, with over 60 million visitors seen each year. Home to world-famous theme parks, celebrated attractions, and renowned convention facilities, we have become a tourist hot spot.
In just the first three months of the year, Florida has seen an increase of 4.8 percent in tourism with over 30 million passing through our state. When compared to last year’s number—105 million visitors—we look well on our way to a successful year in the hospitality industry. Yet in spite of these positive numbers, Orlando is not seeing the same results. The start to 2016 has been uncommonly low for the area. Due to the record numbers set last year, the bar has been set high for this quarter. Many experts believe that the market is now settling after coming off such a strong year. However, with many parks building new attractions and numerous hotel projects in play, Orlando will see a rise in the hospitality industry within the next two years.
On average, Orlando sees around 60 million visitors a year. In 2015 there was a 5 percent increase in visitors when compared to previous years. Yet hotel occupancy has been at its lowest in the last two months, with a decline of 1.5% for the first quarter of 2016. Overall, Florida has seen more domestic travelers than foreign, and this is due in part to the strong dollar and the failing Brazilian economy. Last year alone, there was a decrease in Brazilian travelers by 10 percent.
Both Disney and SeaWorld have reported a decline in attendance these past months, with Universal claiming they have been stable. This may be due to new attractions opening late in the summer months. Hopefully once these are unveiled, sales should improve. Such attractions include Disney’s new Frozen ride and the Star Wars nighttime show at Hollywood Studios. SeaWorld will be launching their new roller coaster, Mako, and Universal will be debuting the much anticipated Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
An artist's rendition of the attraction Epcot's Frozen Ever After, opening in June 2016.
And while some of the theme parks are noticing a slight dip in sales, the convention circuit is growing. As compared to a year ago, over 58 events have already been held within the area, with an increase of 19 percent in attendees. According to the BusinessWire.com, Orlando has been deemed the number one convention city in the US, and has held this position for four years.
Overall, Orlando’s hotel inventory is expected to increase by 0.9 percent this year, and by 1.9 percent by the end of 2017. By December 2016, over 44.8 million room will have been available. STR claims that 25 new hotel projects are under contract, either within the planning stages, final planning, or are currently in construction. This will add around 6,000 new rooms in the next years.
Universal will be expanding its hotel inventory this summer with the Lowes Sapphire Resort. Taking reservations in July, the hotels will house 1,000 rooms—increasing the parks undersized inventory. They will also be adding 400 more rooms to their Cabana Bay Resort within the next year. Currently, the group has a total of 5,600 rooms but the company wants to see this expanded to 15,000 within the next couple of years.
Michael “Doc” Terry, an associate instructor at the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management, concludes “We’re finally moving from a smaller, less sophisticated market to a larger in quality and quantity”. Ultimately, expect to see a substantial rise in hospitality jobs within the hotel market within the next couple of months.