ORLANDO, Fla. — While more people are starting to fly again for the holidays from the Orlando International Airport, it’s still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels of tourists.
What You Need To Know
- Small business in the International Drive area are hurting
- One shop owners says lack of holiday tourists is to blame
- Thanksgiving week would normally be busy for Jasper Singh
Which is hurting small businesses in the International Drive area who normally would enjoy a boost during the holidays.
Owner Jasper Singh says normally Thanksgiving week would be a great time for his beer and wine shop off I-Drive.
“It was packed, it was packed," he said. "A lot of people walking around, they come in, go out, and spending money like nothing.”
But with no international or domestic tourists traveling here for the nearby theme parks, this holiday week is very different.
“Very bad, our business is only at 25% left, and see our aisles are empty, used to be full,” Singh said.
According to a national survey from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 72% of Americans said they won't be traveling for Thanksgiving. Sixty-nine percent said they wouldn’t be traveling for Christmas.
Orlando International Airport officials say they are seeing increased air traffic since the start of the holiday travel season. The airport is expecting to see more than 40,000 departures for half of the 12 travel days this season.
But it’s still only about 50% of the kind of business the airport saw before the pandemic. Decreased travel might be good for keeping COVID-19 cases down, but it is bad for businesses like Singh’s that sit in the heart of Orange County’s tourism.
“Our economy is going to remain depressed, compared to last year or the immediate years prior to that,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings at the county's weekly COVID-19 press briefing.
He said the county is having to strike a tough balance.
Because while he believes the theme parks are safe for guests, experts don’t want people traveling much and creating more spread.
“Which is why we’re going to need a second stimulus round from the federal government in some form,” Demings said.
He says he doesn’t think many businesses will be able to get through this holiday season without it.
Singh doesn’t think things will get better for quite some time, which has forced him to consider closing his store.
“We talked to the landlord two days ago, and said we cannot survive here and said please terminate our lease so we can close the business," Singh said. "And she said no if you close we sue you … it’s hard times for them too, and also hard times for us."