Tourism tax dollars plateau in September; Central Florida continues to take economic hit from pandemic

Although the overall case numbers are down, we are still feeling the economic effects of the pandemic. Central Florida tourism continues to take a big hit because of it.

Tourism in September started with a bang. Universal and Disney both reached current capacity, with crowds for the first time in months.

It's too soon to tell how the rest of September fared, but tourism tax dollars for August are looking pretty bleak. 

"Although our collections increased from our July collections, we’re still about 71% down," said Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond.

That's 71% down compared to August of last year. After months of growth over the summer, there was a slowdown in August.

Guests walk down Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom Park, July 11, 2020, at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on the first day of the theme park’s phased reopening. (Kent Phillips, Photographer)

"We about doubled in June. We about doubled again in July," Diamond said.

Less than $6 million were brought in in tourism development taxes. 

Diamond said he remains hopeful for September numbers thanks to Labor Day weekend, fewer cases and lower COVID-19 positivity rates statewide, along with no outbreaks from the theme parks.

"This all bodes very well for the recovery of the tourism industry. However, the state has just entered Phase 3 of reopening, which will essentially lift most restrictions, so there is uncertainty," Diamond said.

He says it's too early to tell how the rest of 2020 will go, but he's crossing his fingers for more tourists.

"There are some trends with virtual schooling that some people may be traveling with their kids since their kids can take virtual school wherever they are," Diamond said.

He hopes if they choose to travel, they'll choose to travel here.