Even though I was giving myself a little holiday from the blog this weekend, two stories caught my eye. The first was an Orlando Sentinel story on the flat attendance at Walt Disney World. I have to think that given the poor state of the economy, Disney would have been happy to have not lost any ground. But the reality is Disney did lose ground to Universal Orlando (despite their attempts at hiding the figures). Harry Potter is drawing guests away from the mouse house and Disney still has no answer lined up. That’s very troubling.
The second story is related. In the past, Kissimmee hotels saw their occupancy levels rise and fall with the attendance at Walt Disney World. But in recent years Kissimmee hotels have been hit by double-barrels of the down economy and Disney’s emphasis on discounting packages either via free-dining or via an emphasis on Disney Vacation Club. This last year was the absolute worst in the list of bad years.
I’m not ready to give up on the I-192 strip and I don’t think Osceola County is either. Legoland and High Speed Rail are coming soon, both of which could draw tourists to the region. But it will take more than that. Osceola should be on the phone to the crew behind the “Orlando Thrill Park” that was announced for the International Drive area. Residents have already announced their opposition to that location. Osceola should make the thrill park an offer they can’t refuse for property viewable from the I-4 and I-192. That will drive tourism and hotel guests to the depressed area. All that takes time, of course, so in the meantime, they need to really clean up the strip. Focus on a 2 mile strip and lavish it with New paint, new parking, new walk-able shopping zones. At least there will be something for tourist to do in the area if they do decide to venture off Disney property.