ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - One of Orlando’s largest resorts is expecting to be near to sold out for the holidays. It's good news for area attractions and businesses that rely on tourists.
“Looks like December is probably going to be our best month of the year so far,” said Mark Waltrip, chief operating officer at Westgate Resorts.
Westgate Resorts, which owns several properties in the tourism district, is seeing a surge of bookings for the holidays.
“December might very well match last year, so during the holiday weeks, we’ll be pretty close to sold out,” Waltrip said.
Orlando timeshare resort by Westgate.
Waltrip said between Westgate’s two biggest resorts, that’s about 20,000 guests per night.
“Those people will be out spending money and locally bolstering the local economy,” Waltrip said.
Economist Sean Snaith isn’t surprised by the interest in visiting Orlando.
“People were pent up in their homes, under these lockdowns, so I think there is a real desire to travel, get out and do those things we were able to do pre-pandemic,” said Sean Snaith, director of Institute for Economic Forecasting at the University of Central Florida College of Business.
It's a positive light for an economy in dark times.
“This is gonna mean jobs are coming back, spending is coming back and so those leisure and hospitality businesses will be doing better in 2021, and all of the businesses that work with them will also receive some of these benefits,” Snaith said.
“It’s a cause of celebration for the entire community because there’s countless other jobs depend on the people that visit our resorts,” Waltrip said.
To handle the demand over the holidays, Westgate is hiring 500 employees. The positions are in resort operations, housekeeping and the call center.
“Right now, we’re calling them seasonal positions and we’re going to continue to see how it goes,” Waltrip said. “We’re hopeful we can keep these positions on through the spring and then we’re very excited about the latest news about the vaccine. We think spring break and forward will put this whole thing in our rear-view mirror and we’re very excited about next summer as well.”
The hope is that tourism continues to ramp up, so the jobs become permanent. Westgate says any former employee who was laid off because of the pandemic will be at the top of the list for these open positions.