Visit Orlando Talks Tourism with Fox35

George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, recently sat down with Fox35 to talk about how tourism is impacting our community - and how we're building on last year's record 68 million visitors to remain America's most visited destination.


Orlando Celebrates Travel & Tourism Week

National Travel & Tourism Week

Orlando celebrated National Travel & Tourism Week with industry visionary Gerard J. Inzerillo, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide, during a gathering of more than 900 members of the tourism community. With more than five decades at the helm of some of the world's leading hospitality and entertainment companies, Inzerillo has helped brand icons from celebrities to legendary hotel chains. The celebration also included proclamations presented by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to Visit Orlando and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. The mayors praised the "hard-working men and women in tourism" for their role in welcoming more than 68 million visitors.


Orlando Thanks Visitors in Big Way

Orlando Thanks Visitors in Big Way

Visit Orlando unveiled its new milestone visitation number of 68 million by setting the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSTM title "Most Greetings Cards Collected in 24 Hours." As a way to say thank you to Orlando visitors in 2016, the Orlando tourism community came together to handwrite 3,144 thank you cards for #OrlandosBIGThankYou. This new campaign will run through the remainder of the year thanking guests for their support through hand-written cards, Visit Orlando's social media channels, marketing communications, destination websites and member programs.


City of the Year

This week Orlando received two important recognitions that are both meaningful and encouraging as Americans begin making 2017 vacation plans.

First is the good news that one of the leading gay travel websites, , has named Orlando "City of the Year." We will be officially recognized on Dec. 12 in conjunction with the Community Marketing LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Conference, and Orlando will be featured on their popular website all month long. We are proud that our destination is so inclusive and welcoming to all, and want to ensure that our members also know that we offer LGBTQ vacation planning resources on

We are also very pleased to share that TripAdvisor named Orlando as the No. 1 winter travel destination where Americans can save based on search interest and average weekly cost.

Congratulations to all of our members who work hard to create this amazing destination and make our visitors' experience special.


Many Reasons to Be Thankful

Close to 50 million Americans are expected to take to the roads next week, making it the busiest Thanksgiving for travel since 2007, according to AAA. Thankfully, many of these travelers are expected to arrive here, in Orlando. Our destination is continually ranked among the top places to spend the Thanksgiving holiday as recently noted by AAA and

Traditionally a busy weekend for travel, Thanksgiving occupancy is already pacing ahead of 2015 and advance bookings are up nearly 4 percent over the same period last year. While AAA attributes the bump to lower gas prices and anticipates nearly 89 percent of these travelers will arrive by car, air travel is also expected to be on the rise this season.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the beginning of a holiday season full of events and specially-themed venues. There will be winter celebrations at the parks and plenty of good cheer throughout our many resorts and attractions as well as a host of exciting ways for our guests to ring in the New Year.

Travelers to the area will also be rewarded with a variety of Black Friday deals that include hotel savings and added amenities, restaurant offers and discount tickets to area attractions.

The strong Thanksgiving weekend predictors, coupled with all that Orlando has planned for the holiday season, gives us every reason to believe the fourth quarter will usher our destination into a prosperous new year.


No One Does Halloween Like Orlando

As Orlando packs up the jack-o-lanterns and wraps up two months of Halloween festivities, I'd like to share results from a successful new campaign we undertook this year to drive more demand to visit us during this period.

The Halloween industry has had an incredible rise in consumer popularity, doubling in size in the last decade and generating an estimated $8.4 billion in retail spending. Realizing that Orlando has a competitive advantage over other destinations with the quantity - and quality - of Halloween events we offer, this year Visit Orlando launched a new campaign laying claim to Orlando as the "World's Halloween Capital."

Through several creative media stories and unique social media campaigns, we created a point-of-difference for our destination. These efforts generated more than 160 million new consumer impressions for Orlando in news media and online. We secured stories in national outlets such as the New York Times , FOX news, and the Weather Channel among others.

The feedback and results from this campaign were a "screaming success" and uniquely positioned Orlando again as no other destination in the country. We look forward to expanding it even more next year.


Laying Foundation for Fall

Thanks to a stellar September, Orlando's fall season is shaping up nicely. With spectacular year-over-year growth, September was our strongest one since 1996. It began with the FSU/Ole Miss match-up that extended the Labor Day holiday by another day and brought a 16.4 percent rise in Average Daily Rate for the final weekend of summer travel.

In addition, we are happy to report that the Orange County Convention Center had an extremely strong showing during the first month of autumn. Not only was citywide attendance at the Center up an astounding 85 percent compared to last year, Orlando hosted eight groups with more than 10,000 attendees each, including Graph Expo which brought 21,000 attendees to our community. During September, occupancy on I-Drive rose 9 percent over last year.

The early start to Halloween, numerous fall events and a very successful Magical Dining Month helped generate interest in our destination. In addition, Visit Orlando's increased marketing efforts, particularly in the Atlanta region and throughout Florida, is showing promise to help our autumn visitation.


Orlando Dining Gets Magical Response

Fueling excitement for Orlando's culinary scene, WalletHub just named our destination "Best Foodie City." Among 150 major U.S. metro areas, Orlando was top on the list, which ranked everything from food festivals to the accessibility of high-quality restaurants.

In total, a record 96 restaurants participated - 19 for the first time - and a who's who of acclaimed chefs gave area food-lovers plenty to explore during this month-long celebration. Driving the buzz behind this year's event was the just-revealed Visit Orlando app, which let diners easily search menus, pull up directions and book their own culinary experiences.

Best of all, Magical Dining Month allowed guests to dine for a cause. A dollar from every meal will go to support The Russell Home for Atypical Children, the first non-profit in the nation to care for special needs children and "child-like" adults in a caring, forever home.

The Best Foodie City award and the success of this year's Magical Dining Month confirm what we already know: Orlando's dining scene has never tasted so good and there's much to be discovered by simply exploring our destination in our own backyard.

This coveted designation came on the heels of Magical Dining Month, which helped Visit Orlando capture more of the attention of the Florida market while creating even more excitement for our community. Initial reports suggest a record number of diners turned out for the event in September. Taking notice was an impressive list of media outlets and tastemakers. Enthusiasm surrounding Magical Dining was impossible to miss with coverage in print, on television and nearly every social media channel.


Halloween Kicks Off the Season for Events

From adult-size scares to kid-friendly frights, Orlando is now the "Halloween Capital of the World" with more than 130 events spread out over a two-month celebration. There are haunted houses with cinematic-worthy effects and ghoulish parties, and not so scary ones, for kids of all ages. In fact, we are planning to host one of the nation's largest horror conventions, Spooky Empire. All in all, Orlando has created a Halloween experience with a scale and sophistication like nowhere else - giving travelers every reason to come and making what used to be child's play a serious destination draw.

We know that visitors come to enjoy our world-class theme parks and attractions, but fall kicks off a season where guests also experience more events than at any other time of the year. It all begins with Halloween where zombie walks and spooky forests, trick or treating and even a fright-filled ballet make the Orlando experience even bigger and better. This is also the time of year where we welcome many world-class food festivals - which lead up to Orlando's premier holiday events.

While many destinations have settled into off-peak periods, our stellar seasonal events provide travelers with an even greater incentive to visit and explore all that is new. Social media channels, blogs and publicity efforts showcase the excitement and bring the story to life. So whether it's the highest percentage of adults-only travelers that we will see all year or families who are looking to treat the kids to a Halloween like no other, there are plenty of reasons we can expect this fall season to be nothing short of spectacular.


IAAPA Heads Home to Orlando

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) plans to relocate its global headquarters to Orlando. Beginning in 2017, the largest trade association for the $39 billion worldwide attractions industry intends to move from its current location in Alexandria, Virginia, to our community.

With the leadership support of Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, the IAAPA board of directors agreed that moving their international headquarters to Orlando will make it easier for members from around the world to connect with each other as well as with industry suppliers and innovators. As the theme park capital of the world, Orlando is the epicenter of tourism activity and creativity, and we are proud to welcome the IAAPA team and know they will feel right at home.

In addition to being the new home for IAAPA, Orlando will also continue to play host to the organization's annual conference and trade show. The agreement to hold the expo here has now been extended through 2030; five years beyond our current agreement. In total, Orlando will serve as host of this event for 20 years! Each year the convention draws more than 30,000 tourism-related attendees and since the early 2000s has generated over $1 billion in economic impact.


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