Orlando tourism recovering slower than expected with attractions relying on locals

It was expected that tourism would restart this summer, but that isn’t looking like it will be the case.

“It’s not quite up to what everybody was hoping for at this time,” said John Chidester, Director of Marketing, Fun Spot America.

John Chidester with Fun Spot America says business is not what he had hoped for.

“We know that tourism is experiencing a slower than anticipated return here in Florida,” said Chidester.

For that very reason, Rosen Hotels and Resorts on Wednesday announced unprecedented layoffs.

“Since the onset of COVID-19 earlier this year, we have maintained as many staff as possible, with the hope of business returning to usual in June of this year. Regrettably, this did not come to pass,” said Harris Rosen, President and Chief Operating Officer, Rosen Hotels and Resorts.

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“Without a doubt, we’re not going to go back to the pre-pandemic levels of visitors this Summer,” said Sean Snaith, UCF Economist.

University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith believes the spike in COVID-19 cases may be to blame for the delay in traveler confidence.

“If they are wrapped up in the number of cases, then that might be something that is of concern,” said Snaith.

But he hopes consumers put the numbers into context.

“Hopefully, they will see beyond what the headlines are that have suddenly focused on the number of cases and focus on deaths -- how daily deaths continue to trend down,” said Snaith.

For the time being, Snaith encourages the attractions to continue reminding the public of the measures in place to keep guests safe.

“These things can help ease some of the concerns that folks might have and of course there will be a segment of the population that sort-of remains too fearful,” said Snaith.

The local industry is now relying heavily on locals.

“We’re very, very appreciative of that,” said Chidester.

Fun Spot America is grateful locals are showing up in these times when tourism has come to a screeching halt.

“We’re no different than anyone else, local business is a part of what it’s all about, we hire local employees and we all need to work together so that collectively, we can all come through this pandemic successfully,” said Chidester.

With tourism not picking up as hoped, the attractions will be forced to rely on the local market longer than expected.

“I think the local tourism agencies are focusing on, in the near-term on the drive-in market because people may still have fears of getting on a plane in an enclosed space,” said Snaith.

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So, for the first time ever, locals will have the parks to themselves for an extended period of time.

“I think that’s an added incentive for locals that might be hesitant to head to the parks during peak times,” said Snaith.

Chidester says guests at his attraction are pleased.

“They like the fact that the park is theirs, there are short lines, the ability for folks to come out and enjoy themselves, spend time with their families,” said Chidester.

With most of the attractions now open and Disney World reopening this weekend, the big question is: Will the parks be able to pay the bills with primarily local business?