Experience Kissimmee keeps trade in the loop, even if travel to Florida is on hold for a while
Juliana Leveroni, Media Relations Director, Experience Kissimmee (top left); DT Minich, President & CEO, Experience Kissimmee (top middle); Victoria Jaramillo, Senior Director, Marketing & Air Service Development for Orlando International Airport (top right) headlined the Oct. 20 Experience Kissimmee virtual event, along with several partners representing hotels, resorts and vacation home services

Experience Kissimmee keeps trade in the loop, even if travel to Florida is on hold for a while

TORONTO — Two route maps from Orlando Airport show the stark impact COVID-19 has had on one of the world’s most popular vacation spots.

In 2019 MCO had 53 international destinations. In 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, that number has dropped to six.

But there are another nine on the way, and all of the health and safety protocols in place at the airport as well as hotels, resorts, vacation homes and attractions in the Kissimmee area point to a strong recovery from Canada when the border reopens.

Offering an update on MCO during today’s Experience Kissimmee virtual event, Victoria Jaramillo, Senior Director, Marketing & Air Service Development for Orlando International Airport, said the airport is currently seeing about 20,000 passengers per day. The vast majority are U.S. travellers. “It’s a little more challenging with international destinations,” said Jaramillo. “But we’re working with those destinations very closely.”

While domestic traffic has decreased considerably amid COVID-19, the number of passengers is starting to inch back up, says Jaramillo. Domestic leisure travel is coming back ahead of domestic corporate travel.

International travel into Orlando, on the other hand, has all but come to a halt amid travel bans and restrictions. From Canada, pre-COVID-19, Orlando welcomed flights from Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, St. John’s, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Now, it’s just Toronto and Montreal scheduled to come back. In total there are nine international destinations scheduled to resume service to Orlando, plus six international routes operating right now.

On Oct. 19 the federal government announced that the closure of the Canada – U.S. border has been extended until at least Nov. 21, 2020.

Looking at the recovery process, Jaramillo says consumer confidence is key. So is disposable income. Plus, visitor demand is tied to attractions and the local community. Orlando’s theme parks, one of the biggest draws for Canadians heading to Kissimmee, have worked hard to put a full complement of COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place.

Jaramillo also says she’s looking forward to new inter-city rail connectivity via Brightline. Currently operating between Miami and West Palm Beach, the high-speed passenger rail system will add MCO to its network in 2022. Construction on the extension is underway, with 30% of the 170-mile project now complete. With stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and soon MCO, Orlando’s airport will be the only U.S. airport offering inter-city rail service, says Jaramillo.

Today’s Experience Kissimmee virtual event also included an update from Experience Kissimmee’s President & CEO, DT Minich, who noted that in normal times, international visitation accounts for more than 20% of Kissimmee’s visitor numbers. Acknowledging the travel restrictions from global markets including Canada, he said Kissimmee’s number one priority is the safety of its visitors. “We always want guests to have the best experience and to have them come back time and time again,” said Minich.

Experience Kissimmee’s Kissimmee on the Go video series has been a strong selling tool for travel agents looking to promote the destination, if not for now, then for future travel. The video’s hosts visit Kissimmee hotels, resorts, attractions and more to showcase their health and safety protocols, and the overall visitor experience. The videos have been “very popular”, says Minich.

Today’s Experience Kissimmee event also looked at vacation rentals. Kissimmee is the self-proclaimed ‘Vacation Home Capital of the World’, with more than 50,000 vacation homes available to travellers, from cozy condos to 15-bedroom luxury mansions, says Minich.

He adds that Experience Kissimmee and its vacation rental partners, all of whom follow COVID-19 health and safety guidelines – are working with local law enforcement to crack down on excessively large gatherings at vacation rental properties that contravene new COVID-19 regulations.

In normal times, most major tour operators in Canada offer vacation home rentals in Kissimmee, so there are commission opportunities.

More information can be found at ExperienceKissimmee.com.

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