ORLANDO, Fla. — Nearly half of the workforce in Central Florida is centered on tourism, and that industry is taking a big hit because of the Coronavirus. Orange County say they projected to set records with tax dollars through tourism.
- According to Visit Florida, demand for hotels down
- Orange County says it may have to dip into reserves
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Area tourist attractions like Gatorland in Orlando say revenue is down.
“Here we are five weeks into it, no end in sight, it's just unbelievable times," said Gatorland CEO and President Mark McHugh.
McHugh says in 70 years the park has faced many adversities, but this one is not only hard for them but other businesses that depend on tourism throughout the region.
“When tourism completely stops like it has done, it's going to be a major impact to sales tax collection, bed tax collections, and those taxes fund a lot of services in our community that a lot of people may not be aware of," McHugh said.
The hotel tax goes towards funding venues like the Orange County Convention Center, and Visit Orlando, while other sales taxes go toward funding public safety, roadwork, and education.
“It's communities like ours that take such a big hit," Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond said.
Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond says the county was anticipating about $300 million from tourism generated through the hotel tax.
Diamond says getting that $300 million is unlikely.
“I don’t think that is going to happen now, with theme parks being closed, people cancelling their trips, cancelling conventions, and people just not coming to town like they were three or four months ago,” Diamond said.
Data from Visit Florida show in December, demand for hotels across the state was up a little over 6 percent.
Now, with the impact of Coronvirus, that demand for hotels in Florida is at -77 percent.
Chart showing hotel demand in Florida. (Courtesy of Visit Florida)
Diamond says there is a chance the county may have to tap into reserves to make up money loss, but it’s still early.
On the other hand, Mark McHugh is hoping business picks up again soon.
“Hopefully we can get back open in the next month, sometime in May, maybe early June, we’ve got to get tourism back going here," McHugh said.
Mark says the last few years have been really good, so they do have a reserve fund at Gatorland to keep them going for awhile. They have come up with a new virtual way to engage the community on Facebook through "School of Croc", a live educational show for school-age children.
In early March, Orange County leaders said they had lost over a $150 million in one week due to events pulling out of the convention center.