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The State of Tourism

Orlando, Florida, USA downtown city skyline on Eola Lake.

It’s no stretch of the truth to say that Orlando is where people want to be, thanks to the likes of its rich cultural offerings, endless entertainment options and, of course, year-round beautiful weather. From fellow Floridians to globe-trotting international visitors, the town and the world-class service industry it boasts are immensely popular tourist draws—so much so, in fact, that Orlando was named the largest U.S. travel and tourism city destination for 2022 by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Both leisure and business travelers are continually making their way back to a post-lockdown City Beautiful. But, according to Casandra Matej, the president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the latter is nearly back to its pre-pandemic number while the latter has yet to fully rebound.

Matej gave Orlando Family Magazine some insights and a deeper dive into what influences those numbers, as well as discussed how the city’s official tourism association does its part to attract travelers of all kinds and bolster the tourism industry that fuels the local economy, both today and beyond.


Orlando Family Magazine: Can you tell me a little bit about the health of Orlando’s overall tourism numbers currently, and how they compare to pre-pandemic numbers?

Casandra Matej: Orlando remains the most-visited destination in the country! In 2022, Orlando welcomed 74 million visitors, representing a 25% growth from 2021. At 98% of our pre-pandemic visitation, Orlando’s recovery pace has been one of the quickest in the nation.


OFM: When travel restrictions were lifted, was the return to Orlando immediate? How eagerly has the tourism industry risen to meet that pent-up demand?

CM: Orlando served as an industry leader on how to welcome visitors safely to the region. We are home to some of the most recognized names in the hospitality industry, who were able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, prioritizing the health and safety of our visitors while still providing an incredible experience in the destination. We continue to offer travelers opportunities to experience new, immersive theme park expansions and attractions beyond the parks, amenity-packed hotels and resorts, an evolving dining scene recognized by the MICHELIN Guide, diverse neighborhoods, thriving arts and culture, and outdoor activities such as kayaking and airboat tours available year-round.


OFM: Are there any kind of lingering staffing issues at the parks, hotels, restaurants, etc. that are impacting the visitor experience?

CM: We are seeing recovery in this area as well; however, we hear challenges have been more recently focused on the culinary positions at hotel properties. For a broader perspective, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the leisure and hospitality sectors of employment have surpassed pre-pandemic numbers in recent months.


OFM: How does today’s leisure tourism compare to business tourism? What accounts for the difference in those numbers?

CM: We welcomed 7.9 million business travelers and meeting attendees in 2022, reaching 71% of pre-pandemic levels. Orlando was one of the first destinations to bring meetings back, but competition is fierce now that all destinations have reopened. Business visitation is still recovering across the industry.


OFM: What are trade shows, conferences, the meetings and events industry, and other business-based travelers looking for when they come to Orlando?

CM: Year after year, Orlando continues to unveil new options to create incredible experiences for groups. There are endless options for entertainment, as well as attractions in the theme parks and beyond. We have more than 150 convention hotels and resorts that provide resources and amenities for work, play and relaxation. Our culinary scene has offerings from notable local chefs, celebrity chefs and even restaurants recognized by the famed MICHELIN Guide. Ultimately, business-based travelers are looking for a trusted partner and ease of doing business.


OFM: How are online tools helping visitors get the most from their time in Central Florida?

CM: We know Orlando has a lot to offer and it can be overwhelming to filter down options. We have introduced a complimentary vacation planning service that connects travelers with Visit Orlando’s vacation planning experts to give advice to build a customized itinerary. Appointments can be made on and one of our trained vacation planners will arrange for a one-on-one appointment to provide guidance on theme parks, attractions, accommodations, dining and entertainment.


OFM: What’s in the works to keep tourism numbers going strong for 2024?

CM: We have set a goal as part of our organization’s strategic plan to reach 80 million visitors in 2024. I’m optimistic that we can get there, but we need to continue to invest in our destination and marketing efforts to do that. We will continue to execute strong campaigns in our key markets through our joint brand with the Orlando Economic Partnership. The Unbelievably Real brand speaks with one voice to drive tourism and uncover new business opportunities to benefit the entire destination.