ORLANDO, Fla. - Tourism is the lifeblood of Orlando.
Just ask Jesse James. He works at Joe’s Crab Shack on I-Drive.
"Especially right here on International Drive, it’s always capacity. It’s always a lot of people coming down the streets, to and fro," said James. However, he said that has changed. "Because of COVID-19, there’s been a big lack. A lot of people not coming out to eat, a lot of people not shopping."
The latest projections from the American Hotel and Lodging Association shows that the pandemic continues to ravage business travel with Florida projected to be down $5 billion in revenue this year compared to 2019. The city of Orlando alone is expected to be down $2 billion. That’s an 81 percent decrease.
International Drive in Orlando (Photo by WOFL)
Those who live here see the change too.
"We’re out on scooters and the sidewalks are clear. So, we’re like okay let’s go on scooter rides and it’s been honestly, so far, so good. I have not had to run into any tourists," said Alexaida Alverio of Orlando.
29 events have been canceled at the Orange County Convention Center so far this year, including nine this fall. It is not just canceled events that are impacting hotel and business travel either. One employee for a transportation company told me that the events that are still happening are much smaller.
"Especially with COVID, I’m pretty sure that people are just hesitant with travel, which is understandable," they said.
While many events at the Orange County Convention Center have been rescheduled, there are still 41 planned for the rest of the year. Those who live here hope things start turning around.
"Capacity’s been not the very best, but hopefully with all the holidays coming up, it’s going to pick up," the employee added. "Yes, I think we’ll bounce back. We always bounce back. This is minor compared to what we’ve been through in history."
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