Third Time's a Charm

James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards
For the third consecutive year, Orlando captured more nominations in the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards-considered the Oscars of the culinary world-than any other Florida destination.

The five Orlando chefs named semifinalists in the "Best Chefs in the South" category are Kathleen Blake (The Rusty Spoon), Scott Hunnel (Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), James and Julie Petrakis (The Ravenous Pig) and Hari Pulapaka (Cress).

This week's announcement comes on the heels of several prominent culinary accolades for our destination, including Wine Enthusiast naming Orlando one of the "Ten Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2015" and The New York Times highlighting Orlando's "surprising food scene" as a reason to choose Orlando as one of the "52 Places to Go in 2015." With an intriguing lineup of both original and world-famous restaurants set to open in 2015, Orlando is poised to expand even further as a culinary destination in 2015. Recognition like this helps broaden the appeal of our destination among leisure visitors and helps Orlando compete more aggressively in the strategically important convention market.

On behalf of Orlando's tourism community, we'd like to thank our passionate community of chefs for the role they serve in making memorable experiences for our visitors. Best of luck to Kathleen, Scott, James, Julie and Hari against our nation's top chefs in this year's James Beard Awards.


Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Baby, It's Cold Outside
There's no doubt you've seen the headlines. Boston has been battered by snowstorms for three weeks straight. And a Valentine's weekend snowstorm is increasingly likely in New England, where another foot or more of additional snowfall is expected to fall.

While this may be breaking the hearts of Bostonians, we love seeing that Orlando was the only Florida destination to be featured in The Boston Globe's story this week about warm, yet inexpensive, winter getaways. Pulled from "lists of value-packed domestic destinations from, AARP, and other sources," the article highlights Orlando for having the warmest weather of all their picks and airfares under $200 this winter. It goes on to touch on what's new at our theme parks and downtown Orlando. And it even reinforces a perception we've worked hard to shape ... that Orlando offers an incredible dining scene ranging from popular chains to unique independent restaurants, or as the article puts it: "from Turkish to tacos-and-tequila."

We hope you take heart in the fact that Orlando has everything you could ever ask for in a destination ... except for snow shovels.


Different Market, Same Result: Orlando is No. 1

Different Market, Same Result
Once again, Orlando is No. 1. This time it's a result of bookings made by the associates of ConferenceDirect, the full-service meeting solutions company specializing in site selection, conference management, housing and strategic meetings management.

In 2014, ConferenceDirect confirmed nearly half a million room nights for Orlando, representing an economic impact to our community of $252.4 million. Not only was this the fourth straight year that ConferenceDirect's Orlando business was higher than any other destination, but it also comes on the heels of ConferenceDirect naming Visit Orlando "CVB of the Year" in 2014. This is testament to how well our Convention Sales and Services team at Visit Orlando works with the associates at ConferenceDirect, who strongly influence what destination their clients will choose.

With our diverse cross-section of hotels, theme parks and other venues that offer imaginative settings for events and a growing dining and entertainment scene, we know that Orlando has a lot to offer these meeting professionals. We are grateful to the ConferenceDirect team for recognizing what a fantastic destination Orlando is and we look forward to working with them in 2015 to bring even more meetings here than anywhere else.




Tourism Lifting Orlando Higher

 Tourism Lifts Orlando Higher

December's Orange County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections haven't been released officially. However, we expect that last year's record demand for hotel rooms and near record occupancy of almost 74% pushed TDT for the full calendar year over $200 million for the first time in Orlando history. We haven't seen this level of occupancy since 1996, when the Cowboys beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

In the mid-1990's, Metro Orlando occupancy was peaking like it is today even though we had roughly 86,000 rooms. Today, we have nearly 119,000 rooms, yet our Average Daily Rate in Orlando is 32% higher. Why, you ask?

Consider this. Arrivals of international visitors to Orlando is growing as our tourism industry makes it more welcoming to visit the U.S. Visit Orlando and our members have more marketing and sales pressure against key markets than ever before. And convention business is coming back strong. In 2014, Visit Orlando booked more than $2 billion in future conventions.

With ambitious plans underway to make our world-class airport, theme parks and convention center even better - and Visit Orlando's plans to position and promote our entire tourism community more than ever before - there's no telling how high tourism will lift our local economy in 2015 and beyond.



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