Record numbers of Brazilians expected in Orlando this year

After years of decline thanks to the economic situation in Brazil and negative news here, like hurricanes and numerous mass shootings, it now looks like Orlando’s third largest international market is rebounding.

Brazil’s economy is finally picking up steam. Pointing to a Reuters poll that showed Brazil’s GDP growing at a rate of 2.3 percent this year, more than triple 2017’s 0.7 percent, Phil Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, declared that "Brazil is back!"

2015 saw double-digit declines in Brazilian visitor numbers, 2016 wasn't much better, and the official 2017 numbers have yet to be released. In 2015, Brazil had edged out the United Kingdom to become Orlando’s second largest international market, just behind Canada, but as the economy at home slowed, the visitor numbers here slipped as well.

But by last year, the Brazilian economy was showing signs of recovering, and with it, the number of visitors to Orlando began increasing. Then in January of this year, GOL Airlines announced it would begin offering daily flights to Orlando and Miami from Brazil on their brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. GOL had previously served Miami and Orlando, but the cities were dropped during the economic downturn in Brazil.

LATAM Airlines Brazil also recently announced twice weekly flights from Brazil to Orlando. Azul and Delta also offer flights between Orlando and Brazil.

With the addition of the two new airlines, Orlando International Airport (MCO) will set a new record this year for scheduled seats between the airport and Brazil with 486,000, breaking the previous record of 361,000, which was set prior to Brazilian’s economic downturn.

The numbers will likely be shattered next year after both of the new airlines have a full year of service. GOL’s service isn’t starting until Nov. 4, and LATAM’s isn’t scheduled to begin until July 5.

Brown explained why the increase is so important: "With the recent additional seats from Brazil, the projected economic impact for 2018 is nearly $1 billion, up 111 percent from 2013.” According to MCO, the airport generates in excess of $31 billion in revenue for the regional economy.

The growth will help cement MCO’s standing at the busiest airport in the state. After years of ranking just behind Miami International, Orlando overtook MIA last year with nearly 45 million annual passengers.

It should also help Orlando’s hotel occupancy and theme park numbers. While disappointing for much of 2017, according to industry research group STR, Orlando saw in increase of 8.9 percent average daily rate, the second largest in the nation, and a 14.1 percent increase in revenue per available room in its January numbers.

Orlando claims to be the No. 1 visitor destination in the nation with 68 million visitors in 2016. The 2017 numbers should be posted in early May.

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