The horrific Pulse nightclub massacre, the specter of Zika virus, and the uncertainty of politics and national policies aren’t slowing down tourists coming to Orlando.
At least not enough to hurt.
The Orange County Tourist Development Council received sparkling reports Tuesday showing record receipts from tourist taxes in the past fiscal year and forecasts that 2017 is also likely to be rosy.
According to the Orange County Comptroller’s Office the tourist tax brought in $239.5 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. That’s nearly 4 percent more than the county budgeted for, and 6 percent higher than the bed tax brought in 2015.
University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith added to the optimism by updating his previously pessimistic forecasts and projecting solid economic growth for the nation, the state and Central Florida.
“I take both of those presentations with great optimism,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said later.
The reports come just weeks after Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Dyer struck a deal and pushed it through to spend additional tourist tax money to fund the second phase of construction at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and other projects around town.
“It puts us in a really good place. We’ve got the $45 million that we pledged to the performing arts center,” said Jacobs, who chairs the Tourist Development Council.
The rest of the increased tax receipts will be looked at next summer when the Orange County Board of County Commissioners prepares its 2017 budget.
“My expectation is we’ll have excess TDT to begin looking at other capital projects,” Jacobs said.
The reports had some mixed numbers. The tourist tax receipts grew largely because the price of an Orange County hotel room increased. Not including Walt Disney World hotel rooms – which are not reported in the numbers – the average price of a hotel room night went up 4 percent to $124.
There also was an increase in the total number of hotel rooms in Orange County, reaching a record 119,815, up 2 percent from the year before.
Yet the actual hotel room occupancy rate went down slightly more than 2 percent, to 78.1 percent.