Community provides input on Visit Orlando’s tourism master plan

District 1 residents were the first to offer input at a series of town hall meetings hosted by the tourism association in April.

Orange County’s Destination Tourism Master Plan seeks to enhance the visitor economy and prioritize the destinations and its residents’ well-being.
Orange County’s Destination Tourism Master Plan seeks to enhance the visitor economy and prioritize the destinations and its residents’ well-being.
Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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Visit Orlando announced the development of a comprehensive 10-year plan aimed at guiding the community’s future growth and development, and the organization needs residents’ help.

Orange County’s Destination Tourism Master Plan seeks to enhance the visitor economy and prioritize the destinations and its residents’ well-being.

Visit Orlando invited the community to fine tune and provide input on the initiative through a series of town hall meetings hosted during the week of April 15 in each of Orange County’s six commission districts. 

The District 1 meeting was held Monday, April 15, at Gotha Middle School.

“Tourism isn’t merely an industry for attracting visitors to a destination; it’s greater than that,” Visit Orlando COO Mario Bass said. “We understand that the impact to the destination involves everybody in this room, because quality of life for our residents is paramount to this process. … This should be a give and take. We want to hear what you have to say and your thoughts and its impact on our destination.”


Visit Orlando is The Official Tourism Association for Orlando, which is the most visited destination in the United States, the Theme Park Capital of the World and the No. 1 meeting destination in the country. 

The not-for-profit trade association brands, markets and sells the Orlando destination globally and represents more than 1,500 member companies comprising every segment of Central Florida’s tourism community.

Annually, Orange County hosts 74 million visitors, and the area has about 384,000 hospitality workers. 

The county generates $5.3 billion in local and state taxes, with $7,500 saved per household in annual taxes.

Visit Orlando is partnering with MMGY NextFactor, a consulting firm, to develop the plan.

Paul Ouimet, founder and strategic adviser of NEXTFactor Enterprises Inc., which is a part of MMGY Global’s group of companies as MMGY NextFactor, led the presentation at the District 1 meeting.

He said many cities have started to put together a plan like this in the last five to 10 years.

“It’s a commitment that we’ve realized has to be made to residents and to local businesses to really try to address quality-of-life issues and local business development needs — all the things that are really, really good objectives to try to focus on and figure out what should be done,” he said. “This is looking at what needs to be done to optimize the economy in terms of infrastructure, facilities, services, attractions and events, which need to be developed to improve overall visitor offering and experience. 

“A lot of what’s going to be in this could even take longer than 10 years … the things that need to be done to take you to the next level,” Ouimet said. “We are looking at other local, county and regional plans to make sure what we’re recommending in this plan is consistent with and supports all the other initiatives that are currently underway or completed. … This is not a Visit Orlando plan, this is a destination-wide plan.”

The plan is split into five phases: Phase 1, project planning and management; Phase 2, destination assessment; Phase 3, stakeholder engagement; Phase 4, visioning workshop; and Phase 5, destination master plan. 

Ouimet said the way the organization ensures the plan is all-inclusive is by having a steering committee comprising critical industry, government and community leaders, with Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings serving as the co-chair.

Stakeholder engagement for the project includes 32 interviews with key industry, government and community leaders; seven focus groups; six community town halls; and a DestinationNEXT assessment. 

For strength, Orange County’s highest-scoring assessment variables were attractions and experiences; conventions and meeting; dining, shopping and entertainment; and events and festivals.

The lowest-scored variables were local mobility and access; arts, culture and heritage; communication infrastructure; health and safety; and destination access. 

Community-alignment variables also are important and include business support, government support, regional cooperation, emergency preparedness and economic development. 

For alignment, Orange County’s highest-scored variables were economic development; organization governance; regional cooperation; equity, diversity and inclusion; and emergency preparedness. 

The lowest-scored variables were workforce development; sustainability and resilience; community group and resident support; funding support and certainty; and government support. 


Community members divided into groups to discuss four topics: neighborhood development, mobility/transportation infrastructure, workforce/housing iconic events and sustainability. 

“I would like to not see our area turn into a tourist area,” a District 1 resident said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose to live here. … I don’t want it to turn into I-Drive.”

Visit Orlando President and CEO Cassandra Matej said the plan is not just about District 1.

“We are wanting you to dream, and dream big about all of Orange County,” she said. “We all benefit from the economics of the tourism that comes to our area.”

In terms of neighborhood development, residents voiced support for fewer chain developments, the focus of development to stay in tourism areas such as downtown Orlando and International Drive, and a focus of redevelopment and not new development on areas that need help.

For mobility/transportation infrastructure, some residents asked for additional taxes for visitors, while others said appropriate infrastructure is needed to handle the current vehicles on the road before new vehicles are added. 

As far as workforce/housing, residents brainstormed about how to fix low hospitality culture, as well as possible redevelopment of old hotels.

When it comes to iconic events, attendees spoke about creating events that encompass the successes of the county in areas such as innovation and technology, sports teams, and high-quality universities.

Finally, for sustainability, locals spoke about creating more volunteer opportunities and internships for high school and college students; offering more training facilities; generating more economic development to support communities; concerns that the transportation offered cannot sustain the current population; and showing support for local businesses. 

Ouimet said the plan development started last fall, and the organizations expect the plan to be wrapped up before the end of the year.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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