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Visit Orlando CEO Casandra Matej is optimistic about the future of Orlando’s tourism industry

Visit Orlando President and CEO Casandra Matej. Photo: Casandra Matej via LinkedIn

Central Florida’s tourism-based economy is still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, but Visit Orlando’s new CEO is optimistic about the future. 

Casandra Matej, who stepped into the role in February, joins Intersection to discuss where Orlando’s tourism economy is headed in 2021.

According to an op-ed by state Rep. Rene Plasencia in the Orlando Sentinel, hotels in the Orlando area lost $3.1 billion in revenue between March 2020 and January 2021--a 75.6% decrease compared to the previous year. 

“It was absolutely devastating for the industry around the Orange County community,” Matej says. 

She says her first priority is to help the tourism industry recover. 

“It's critical that we get people back to the workplace,” Matej says. “These are our partners, our friends, our neighbors...Orlando is the number one meetings destination in the US. We've got to make sure we get back up to those levels, because it's such an important aspect of this community, and the economic impact that we have on this community.” 

Matej says the predictions that leisure travel would be the first to economically recover are starting to ring true. 

“We're starting to see more people on flights. We're starting to see the theme parks at their full capacity, which right now is right around 35%,” she says. “Those are all strong signs.” 

Matej says she thinks restrictions on occupancy will relax as more people get vaccinated.

She says Orlando is positioned a year ahead of other destinations and will be part of the legacy of bringing back the tourism industry.

“The world is watching us,” Matej says. “We are that important, not only to our local economy--to our statewide economy--but the entire travel industry, nationally and globally, are watching us right now, because we have been welcoming back visitors.”