As co-chair of Orange County's Economic Recovery Task Force, I'm encouraged by the progress toward restarting the region's economy in a safe, responsible manner. This week proved to be a big first step, as businesses across our county began reopening in a phased approach under new guidelines recommended by Mayor Jerry Demings.
Building on this momentum, Visit Orlando continues to roll out new programs in support of our industry and community, highlighted by this week's announcement of our overall recommendations for restarting tourism.
BRINGING BACK TOURISM
During Monday's "Bringing Back Tourism" meeting, a working group of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, we reviewed Visit Orlando's three-tiered approach for rebooting travel to our destination:
1) Keep Orlando top of mind: This is our current phase and includes programs such as #OrlandoToGo, Orlando Zoom backgrounds, virtual learning and other initiatives such as ongoing PR updates.
2) Build trust and ease concerns: How quickly people resume travel will depend in large part on communicating new policies that establish a sense of confidence to travel once more. Messaging around business/destination readiness and affordability will be key.
3) Drive demand to gain a strong share of travel: Through new creative campaigns supported with national publicity, social media and other digital platforms, we will promote products and deals starting with in-state travelers, then extending into drive markets and, eventually, all of the U.S.
These initiatives provide a roadmap, if you will, for ramping up travel to our destination. I'm happy to report that theTask Force unanimously approved these recommendations to Mayor Demings.
The TaskForce has recommended these seven general guidelinesforall industries:
Practice social distancing.
Stay home when feeling sick.
Wear protective face covering.
Conduct health screenings.
Sanitize and wash hands frequently.
High-risk individuals should shelter and work from home, whenever possible.
Recommend temperature checkforall staff. All temperatures of 100 degrees or above must go home.
In addition, Orange County has developed reopening criteria for local restaurants. Restaurants can allow no more than 25% indoor occupancy, and outdoor seating is permissible with appropriate social distancing and subject to local zoning requirements.
VISIT ORLANDO IN ACTION
#4♥7Dates: Once again, we're teaming up with Orange County on a fun way to support local businesses. Our #4♥7Dates campaign, an extension of #407Days, encourages couples to order takeout or delivery from hundreds of restaurants listed on VisitOrlando.com/togo and participate in virtual events the first three weekends of May.
This weekend, order out and join us for these fun events:
Friday, May 8 (7:30 p.m.) — Orlando's Timucua Arts Foundation, known for intimate performances in the founder's home, presents a modern jazz performance from the Philippe Lemm Trio on its Facebook page.
Saturday, May 9 (8 p.m.) — #407dates Trivia Night with Curtis Earth: Think you know Orlando? See how your knowledge stacks up with an Orlando-themed Trivia Night with award-winning quiz master Curtis Earth, hosted on the Zoom video-conferencing service. Please plan to use a laptop or tablet with a camera. Curtis Earth also uses Google Forms as the companion answer sheet for the quiz. (It is super easy to initiate.) At 8 p.m. on May 9, use password '244235' to join the Trivia Night on Zoom.
Webinar: Join us Wednesday, May 13, at 1 p.m. as economist Anirban Basu, chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, discusses the foreseeable future and "the contours of the brisk recovery to come thereafter." Register and view previous webinars here.
Rescheduling Conventions: Our convention sales team continues to work alongside the Orange County Convention Center and member hotels to reschedule impacted groups. As of today, 21 conventions with an estimated economic impact of $425.7 million have rescheduled for 2020 or 2021.
Occupancy Rates: Metro Orlando's hotel occupancy was 16.8% April 26-May 2, our first week over 15% in more than a month. The region's average daily rate rose slightly from last week to $63.21, a decline of 52.6% from last year at this time.
Advance Bookings: Though stay-at-home orders are gradually beginning to be lifted across multiple states, advance hotel bookings for Orlando continue to fall well behind prior year for the key summer months (June -52.5%, July -37.2%, August -22.5%). Fueled by rescheduled conventions, however, September is only showing a 2.4% decline.
Traveler Sentiment: According to research this week, travelers' confidence in airline cleanliness is the key to their return. The most in-demand practice is "high-tech" cleanings of interiors between flights and requiring passenger health screenings. Travelers also want to see that hotels are primarily concerned with their health by providing hand sanitizing stations, face masks and disinfectant wipes. Read more.
TOURISM HELP HUB
Be sure to check out our dedicated Tourism Help Hub webpage regularly, as we continue to update information on financial and food assistance, employment opportunities and Visit Orlando programs to keep your business top of mind with consumers.
COMMUNITY & HEALTH
As businesses begin to reopen in phases, please remember that Orange County's curfew (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) is still in effect. Also, while not a mandate, the county also strongly urges individuals to wear a mask or facial covering when in public. For the most critical local health and government updates, visit Orange County's coronavirus webpage.