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.


Never-Before-Seen Technology for a Destination Comes to Orlando

 Visit Orlando

A record-breaking number of attendees at Visit Orlando's "Business of Travel & Tourism Luncheon" were the first to hear of a groundbreaking technology that will forever change the way our guests experience travel. Visitors to the destination now have access to the Visit Orlando Destination APP, which uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality allowing them to explore, play and earn savings in a way never seen before. With WayBlazer's IBM Watson-enabled technology, this innovative APP lets visitors share experiences, purchase tickets and even ask questions in their own words. It's like having a personal Orlando expert concierge on hand 24/7. Here's how it works.

Based on a user's conversational language, the technology offers individualized recommendations of Orlando experiences that match that traveler's preferences - using real-time data to create the best possible encounters. For example, the APP considers weather conditions when advising outdoor activities and restaurant suggestions take into account the hours of operation, neighborhood and multiple third-source endorsements. Want a venue with live music? It does that. What about experiences designed for the members of a specific group? It does that too. The "Around Me" feature uses the mobile device's GPS to locate and learn about relevant dining and entertainment options in the vicinity. Plus, there's even a game that lets players unlock Orlando deals by capturing "Magical Orbs" and a selfie scavenger hunt to further engage them in the fun.

At the luncheon, keynote speaker and technology pioneer Terry Jones helped attendees understand the role innovation has played in travel and the advancements that have led to this revolutionary way to experience Orlando. It was a remarkable event that showcased why Orlando is at the forefront of the tourism landscape and will continue to be the destination of choice for years to come. If you haven't already, download it and experience it yourself.


Where Travel Technology Is Popping Up

 Pokemon Go Orlando

You've no doubt seen people dashing about town, eyes glued to phones, as they search for Pokémon Go characters. From SeaWorld Orlando to Fun Spot America, these digital creatures are popping up everywhere alongside real-world objects in this viral mobile game - showcasing the success of augmented reality technology.

Given the immense popularity of the game, Visit Orlando's digital marketing and membership team immediately began brainstorming how we could amplify the destination experience for our visitors, residents and members. Visit Orlando is pleased to share that we've launched a website which identifies locations that alerts gamers to hot spots in our destination's major theme parks, as well as tourism areas that do not require admission. 

The Pokémon Go trend is just one of the ways Visit Orlando continuously leverages new technology to promote our destination.


Orlando Welcomed 66 Million Visitors in 2015

Orlando Welcomed 66 Million Visitors 

Visit Orlando announced a new all-time record for the destination. In 2015, 66.1 million people visited Orlando, growing 5.5 percent from 2014 and solidifying Orlando's position as the most visited destination in the nation. Visitation to Orlando more than doubled over the past 20 years, growing from 32.4 million in 1995.

"Reaching more than 66 million visitors to Orlando is an amazing accomplishment for our tourism community," said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. "This new milestone and rapid growth over the past two decades is a result of having a tourism industry and community partners that are focused on growth and investment, dedication to the needs of our visitors and the global marketing and sales efforts of our Visit Orlando team and member companies."


Keeping Travel Safe and Secure

Orlando International Airport

Last week's senseless attacks in Paris were tragic and our thoughts and prayers go out to the French people and everyone affected by this terrorism. But unfortunately, this event has resulted in several of our nation's Congressional lawmakers re-examining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for potential security gaps. It's important during times like this to communicate a better understanding of the VWP, without resorting to a quick overreaction that dismisses the facts about this important program.

The truth is that the VWP not only facilitates inbound travel to the United States but also protects our homeland by requiring pre-screening of travelers who are pre-approved through the program. It also enables greater information sharing through enhanced international partnerships with law enforcement and intelligence services and making passports more secure for participating countries. You can send an email to your Senators and Representative to let them know that now is the time to defend this tried and true security program and champion policies such as the VWP that keep travel safe and secure.

By the way, we would like to remind you that now is also the time to register for Visit Orlando's Annual Meeting and Luncheon, presented by Emirates, on Dec. 8. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich will deliver a powerful keynote presentation along with other opportunities to reflect on the great year for tourism we've had in Central Florida. We hope to see you there.


Global Marketing Efforts in Full Force

With Brazilians facing a strong U.S. dollar that reduces the value of their money when traveling to our destination, Visit Orlando is applying strong marketing pressure against Brazil to ensure we maintain our fair share of this important source market for visitors. As these loyal fans of ours are making travel plans for next year, Visit Orlando's global marketing efforts are in full force.

Brazilian magazine Pais&Filhos , the Brazilian version of Parents Magazine, featured 58 pages of Orlando coverage in its biannual Fashion edition in October. Plus, six pages of Orlando editorial is appearing in each of the magazine's October, November and December issues, not to mention additional exposure for our destination on the magazine's YouTube Channel, Instagram and Facebook. Our consumer marketing efforts range from traditional advertising on television and print to breakthrough strategies with Instagram, a video series with popular Caras Magazine and the country's Masterchef Junior television program.

Of all Brazilians who travel to America, 40 percent of them come to Orlando. This makes Orlando the most visited destination in the U.S. for Brazilians. While 2015 has been another great year for tourism in our community, Visit Orlando is hard at work to ensure that visitors from around the world will choose to spend their vacation time with us in 2016.


Register Now for Visit Orlando's Annual Meeting

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, there's not a lot of time to register for Visit Orlando's Annual Meeting and luncheon on Dec. 8 at Rosen's Shingle Creek Resort. As a destination, our entire tourism community pulled together this year to achieve what all indications suggest will be another historic, record-breaking year for our community. As a friend of tourism you won't want to miss the recap of 2015 and "look ahead" at what's in store for 2016.

If you haven't heard, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich has accepted our invitation to share his outlook on next year's economy and Presidential race, as well as the resulting effects on our businesses community. Our local business and Central Florida community leaders alike will surely find this very special keynote presentation fascinating.

Please join Visit Orlando's Chairman of our Board of Directors Peter Kacheris for what promises to be a memorable event. Click here for registration information.


Meetings (Still) Mean Business

George Aguel, CEO of Visit Orlando, was one of the founders who formed the Meetings Mean Business Coalition in 2009. It was founded soon after the financial crisis impacted our industry like never before, to showcase the value that business meetings, travel and events bring to the U.S. economy. We can never forget those years and how important it is that our local tourism community in Orlando doesn't rest on its laurels when it comes to spreading the good word that, like the travel industry, the meetings industry supports millions of U.S. jobs and generates billions of dollars in annual economic impact. Our own destination is a major recipient of this business, having achieved the status of being recognized as the No. 1 destination for meetings and No. 2 for major trade shows. This segment of our tourism business represents nearly $7 billion in economic impact to our community.

Those of us in tourism recognize and appreciate that these conferences and events serve as platforms for professional development and training, as well as for networking and the strengthening of sustainable business relationships, ever so important in today's highly competitive marketplace. But that's not the case for everyone. During the height of the recession seven years ago, many companies made across-the-board cuts, including canceling meetings and restricting travel for their employees. Ironically, according to Oxford Economics, companies that invested more in business travel during the economic downturn grew the fastest.

So, despite the fact that we're closing in on what appears to be another year of record-setting growth for tourism in Orlando, we want to encourage all of the leaders in our community to be champions for the value of conferences, trade shows and client events.


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