ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Leaders in the fields of airport and hotel management are sharing expertise in an Orange County Task Force working group called Bringing Back Tourism.

What You Need To Know

  • Central Floridians eager for return of tourism industry jobs

  • Cynthia Kirkland, a seamtress at Disney World, was furloughed

  • She's spent her time making masks, face shields for health care workers

  • Working group in Orange County is looking at ways to bring back tourism

“We submitted recommendations to the bigger task force and to the mayor, so it will be really interesting to see how some of the recommendations will be implemented in a real world situation," said Dr. Youcheng Wang, who serves as co-chair of the group and is dean of the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management. 

Wang said that most recommendations so far revolve around unifying messaging and communications for the tourism industry as a whole, as well as implementing various safety measures.

“It’s an industry based on perception and based on awareness," he said. "Sometimes perception is reality. In order to attract people to come to your destination, you have to ensure that people are aware of your destination."

And also that visitors feel safe, Wang said.

That's why the group will continue to look at best practices, like temperature checks or marked out social distancing guidelines, being rolled out around the world. For example, at the just-reopened Shanghai Disneyland.

"What Disney is going to do will affect a lot of people's perceptions and mind set. Fortunately in this case, Disney is a very international corporation," he said.

Those working in the industry, like Cynthia Kirkland, look forward to tourists returning, as well.

For the past 10 years, Kirkland has worked at Walt Disney World. She's a seamstress, crafting fanciful designs that she said make her feel "empowered." But, for the past six weeks, she's felt frustrated at home, furloughed like her two Disney puppeteer roommates.

Kirkland has not sat idle, instead spending her time sewing masks and printing 3D face shields for health care workers. She's wrangled of 600-plus makers around the country into a collective dubbed Print the Curve Flat that has sent out 28,000 face shields to front line workers, including those in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

“I’m always building and making things. So I had to take that mindset home, because I couldn’t sit and do nothing," she said. “Six weeks later, my printers are still running.”

While she's found purpose in helping others, Kirkland is eager to return to her work at the most magical place on Earth -- as long as the return is safe for everyone.

“I hope we don’t rush it, of course. I want to make sure we’re doing it in a safe manner," she said. “Disney is kind of a solace for a lot of people, brings smiles to a lot of people. So just getting back to that sense of normalcy and magic will help not only the people, but employees."

Wang said that the group has suggested that leaders focus on bringing back local tourism first -- people within the state of Florida.

By late summer and early fall, they can switch to attracting the "drive market" -- in other words, those who can make the drive to Central Florida from other states like New York and Chicago.

But, the work group does not recommend focusing on the international market for some time: two to three years, said Wang.

“We have to do this is a very, very responsible way," he said.

The work group will meet again Wednesday morning to share additional recommendations to the larger Task Force and will continue to meet in the weeks to come.

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