Al Kidd, President and CEO of Sports ETA, the international association for sporting events and the tourism industry, is one of many influential voices hailing Orlando’s rapidly recovering tourism industry and identifying the sport as a key driver.
- “Greater Orlando is ten to twelve months ahead of many other major city travel destinations”
- Influential voices support sport’s vital role in boosting recovery from the pandemic.
- Orlando’s focus on football tourism underscores the city’s credentials as hosting the 2026 World Cup â¢ ahead of FIFA visits.
- America’s largest city’s $ 26 billion tourism industry
Al Kidd, President and CEO of Sports ETA: âAs we step out of the restrictions and challenges of the pandemic and get back to business, major cities like Orlando are poised to recover faster than others. Sporting events and sport tourism in Orlando have proven to be the back-to-school catalyst, generating much-needed new business, âhe said.
Jesse Martinez, Managing Director of The Alfond Inn, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Lodging Association and Member of the Board of Directors of Visit Florida, agrees. âIn my opinion, Central Florida is way ahead of all other major city tourist destinations. After seeing a huge influx of travelers over the past spring break, we haven’t slowed down since.
âSports tourism was one of the first bright spots when Orlando began reopening in the summer of 2020 as we hosted the NBA bubble, the MLS is Back tournament and youth events such as the National Volleyball Championship. -ball Jr. of the AAU, “said Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit Orlando, who echoed Jesse Martinez’s sentiments in stating that” Orlando is a year ahead. ”
To underscore this, the 2021 edition of the same AAU youth volleyball event – held just a few weeks ago – drew more than 130,000 participants and visitors. Mark Tester, Executive Director of the Orange County Convention Center, said, âThe event generated one of our highest food and drink totals in the centre’s history.
Don Welsh, President and CEO of Destinations International, added: âAll eyes were on Orlando during the pandemic as the NBA and MLS resumed their seasons. It was impressive to see their collaborative community come together to welcome in the most difficult circumstances. ”
Orlando believes that the focus on encouraging sports-related travel and welcoming teams and players has been a big factor in keeping its infrastructure running.
âWhen business travel collapsed, some cities were saved by their youth activity and amateur sports travel,â said Jason Siegel, CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “There is no doubt in my mind that sports tourism is a viable avenue for generating visitor spending and promoting a destination – which is why Orlando gives it such a high priority.”
Normally, Orlando has the largest tourism industry in the United States, producing $ 26 billion annually, overtaking Las Vegas at $ 19 million. One in five workers in Orlando (21%) worked directly in hospitality and recreation in 2019. When COVID-19 hit, the unemployment rate skyrocketed. âOur neighbors at Port Canaveral, which derive significant revenues from the cruise industry, have lost 43% of their workforce,â said Siegel.
But as life normalizes, the recovery is quick, much faster than many anticipated. Hotels take reservations; the term occupancy is very promising and optimism is evident.
According to a study written by Adam Sacks of Tourism Economics, global demand for hotel rooms reached 89% of 2019 figures and air passengers are at 71% (June 2021). Leisure travel will almost be back to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, although business will take longer. He said, âOverall, sports are outperforming the market as youth sports have returned long before other business-related events. In fact, we hear from customers that sport has been the star of what has been an otherwise dismal market â
Orlando, one of 17 US host cities bidding for the 2026 FIFA World Cup â¢, hopes to be selected for the top 10 finalists. âI believe our reputation as a collaborative tourism community and reliable sport partner – and our popularity as a destination – suggests that we surely deserve a place,â Siegel summed up.