Travel - June 25, 2018

Orlando sets new tourism record in 2017

Central Florida tourism had record-setting 72 million tourists flocked to the Orlando area last year. Even though Hurricane Irma forced the closures of its theme parks and airports and filled its hotels with displaced evacuees.

It bested the previous record of 68 million people who traveled to Florida in 2016, making Orlando the first U.S. city to surpass the 70 million thresholds for tourists, according to Visit Orlando.

Tourism in parts of Florida shut down last September for almost a week because of Hurricane Irma. The area’s theme parks closed for two days and planes stopped flying out of central Florida airports. Millions of coastal residents were ordered to evacuate, sending many of them inland to hotels in Orlando.

Despite the short-term closures, Irma didn’t cause any widespread damage in central Florida, although the hurricane-damaged other parts of the state, including the Florida Keys. After the hurricane, Visit Orlando, the area’s tourism board, launched social media and publicity campaigns that showed central Florida was open for business.

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Orlando’s record number of visitors grows because of the continuous addition of new attractions and rides at the area’s theme parks. About 20 new attractions opened in Orlando in 2017.

Orlando also attracted national headlines for its restaurants and things-to-do away from the theme park corridor. It hosted the NFL’s Pro Bowl game for the first time in 2017 at Camping World Stadium.

Orlando’s record growth is not a surprise. The state of Florida had 116.5 million visitors in 2017, another all-time high.

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