Domestic and international arrival numbers up in Orlando

Orlando set a record in 2004 when 47.8 million visited the destination, a 6.1% increase over the previous year, according to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Domestic visitors accounted for 95% of the total, and just over half of them were Florida residents.

Outpacing the overall increase was a 12.4% rise in international visitors, the first increase in international arrivals since 2000.

Domestic visitor numbers have grown steadily over the past three years, and while the number of domestic visitors increased by a relatively small percentage (5.8%) in 2004, it represents a hefty increase of 2.5 million visitors.

In contrast, the relatively larger percentage increase of international travelers from 2.3 million to 2.6 million represents an increase of only a few hundred thousand.

Both leisure and business travel increased. The number of leisure visitors increased by 6.2% to 35.2 million, while the briefcase crowd numbered 10 million, an increase of 4.4%.

Oddly, while Orlando is well known as a family destination, the CVB reports that the percentage of travelers with children decreased slightly last year, from 43% to 41%.

But the theme parks have little to fear. Theme park visits remained by far the most popular activity, with 73% of domestic leisure visitors attending.

The average leisure travel party in 2004 consisted of 2.8 visitors and spent $1,653 over the course of 2.9 nights. The size of traveling parties and the length of stay remained constant, but spending per party increased slightly, the CVB said.

Domestic travel remains the staple of Orlando tourism, maintaining a steady growth curve every year for the past decade with the single exception of 2001, when the numbers dropped by more than 2 million from 39.8 million in 2000 to 37.7 million in 2001.

In 2002, the number shot back up to 40.6 million, which beat the previous record in 2000 by 800,000. Since then, domestic numbers have set records every year.

Over a 10-year period, international visitor numbers have traveled a much rockier road. In spite of the increase in 2004, the totals still stand below those of 1995, when Orlando welcomed 3.2 million foreign visitors. The number grew slightly in 1996 and 1997 to nearly 3.5 million, then declined in both 1998 and 1999. It peaked at 3.7 million in 2000, then dropped to 3.1 million in 2001 and to 2.4 million in 2002.

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