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Matej Optimistic About Recovery As Tourism Numbers Pick Up

People wait in line at Orlando International Airport. Photo: Danielle Prieur
People wait in line at Orlando International Airport. Photo: Danielle Prieur

Central Florida leaders are cautiously optimistic about the economic recovery as tourist numbers begin to pick up. But even as more travelers from other states head to Orlando on holiday or for business - the return of international travel to pre-pandemic levels is expected to take longer.  Visit Orlando CEO Cassandra Matej joins the show to talk about getting passengers back on planes and tourists back on the road- and the outlook next few months of the recovery. 

"When you look at Spring Break numbers as well as what we're projecting for the summer, while they're not pre pandemic numbers, we are very optimistic that we're going to have a healthy and strong summer travel season," says Matej.

"And that's one segment, meaning the leisure travel people coming here for their vacation. But we also are seeing meetings and conventions returning to Orlando."

Matej says vaccinations are a key part of the return to normal for the tourism sector.

"Visit Orlando is actually partnering with Orange County with the promotion of 'I've got my shot' campaign. And so we are encouraging individuals, workers in that community to get their vaccination. Because think about it, when you're a traveler and you're coming and staying in a hotel, if you know that the majority of that workforce is vaccinated, that gives you some more additional confidence in your decision to travel."

Matej says while domestic tourism and conventions are an important part of the economy, so are international visitors.

"We invite the world to experience Orlando. But we also know that international visitors, they stay longer, they usually, you know, enjoy an entire region versus just one destination," says Matej.

"So it is very important to the local and regional economy that we get the international traveler back. But the reality is, is that that's going to be the last segment to come back for a variety of reasons...whether it's regulation, whether it's how we reopen our borders, and make it easy for international travelers to come back to the US."

Staffing is another potential hurdle for leisure and hospitality businesses.

"I think the reality is, that if if a restaurant or if an attraction, or a hotel is understaffed, you know, there are people that are having to wear multiple hats, do multiple jobs. And so... they're doing things that they haven't, you know, traditionally been doing in their role."

Matej says if businesses can't find the staff they need, "it could be a domino effect on customer service issues."