The city of Orlando announced on Thursday that it welcomed 75 million visitors in 2018, another record-breaking travel statistic for the Sunshine State. The total represents a 4.2 percent jump from the previous year and solidifies Orlando's title as the "top travel spot in the United States," according to the city's tourism agency.
The destination's domestic market enjoyed a 4.1 percent increase year-over-year, with 68.55 million people coming through in 2018. Likewise, the international market welcomed 6.48 million travelers, a 5.4 percent jump from 2017. The international improvement was driven by Latin American visitors, especially from Brazil and Mexico, said George Aguel, CEO, Visit Orlando. Aguel also estimated that the meetings and conventions industry accounted for 10 percent of total figures.
"We love our visitors and how they really do help our region thrive," Aguel said to a group of more than 1,000 hospitality and tourism professionals who gathered at the Orange County Convention Center to celebrate the milestone. "We place such an importance on taking care of our visitors, who are coming to Orlando like nowhere else because of how we make them feel. We make them feel welcomed."
Visit Orlando board chair, Adrian Jones, said the city remains 100 percent behind driving more visitation throughout 2019. He credited a "secret formula," highlighted by "...continued investment into the infrastructure of Orlando and the many aggressive marketing campaigns" for continued positive results.
Orlando has been in the middle of a years-long expansion of hotels and accommodations. The metro area currently offers more than 120,000 hotel rooms, the second highest in the nation behind only Las Vegas.
The city's convention center is also undergoing a multimillion-dollar expansion that will add new meetings and exhibit space to its North and South wings. Additionally, attractions at the area's theme parks are opening at record pace.
Walt Disney World is opening a Star Wars-themed land in August, SeaWorld debuted a Sesame Street land this spring and Universal Orlando is opening a new Harry Potter-themed ride this summer.
"We think it will help us carry over in 2020," Aguel said. "A lot of these things start to kick in the following year."