A staggering 62 million people paid a visit to Orlando in 2014, a new U.S. travel industry record that solidifies the vacation haven as the North America’s most visited city.
Based on the U-Haul trucks headed to Central Florida, it’s a pretty safe bet some of those tourists are returning to O-Town on a more permanent basis.
“When they come here, some of them end up settling down and moving here because they see the opportunity and the beauty,” said Dr. Abraham Pizam, Dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at University of Central Florida.
“Everyone is affected by tourism. There’s a kind of domino effect. Students come from other states and countries and start in our internship programs. They work part time and gain experience and by the time they graduate they have a job and have contacts here in Orlando.”
Orlando claims No. 5 on the U-Haul Top 10 U.S. Destination Cities for 2014, slipping three spots from its 2013 ranking but maintaining its longstanding status among the top five. These rankings reflect the top destinations of one-way U-Haul truck rentals for the past calendar year.
While migration trends don’t correlate directly to a city’s population or economic growth, they are a strong gauge as to how well cities are attracting new residents. And Orlando is still drawing new residents to town.
“This ranking continues to solidify Orlando’s reputation as a city for everyone that offers amenities and experiences that can only be found here,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “From our world-class entertainment venues, award-winning dining options, vibrant arts and culture scene, our thriving downtown and our unique commercial neighborhood districts, Orlando is a premiere destination for leisure and living.”
Disney World, Universal Orlando, International Drive, SeaWorld Orlando and Legoland Florida are some of the hot spots vacationers flock to when they’re not making the short drive to the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts for a day at the beach.
But Orlando, with its 236 days of annual sunshine and 61-degree average temperature from December to February, has more to offer – beginning with space to expand.
“An awful lot of people are still moving to Florida,” said Rod Baldwin, marketing company president for U-Haul Company of Orlando. “Tampa is landlocked by water. Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are landlocked. Orlando has a lot of land.
“The city, county and state government are all supplying great assets for infrastructure around Orlando. New highways and byways are being built all the time. There is a light rail system. They recognize it’s going to keep growing and they’re staying out in front.
“There are so many people pouring into the city, and Disney is a big influence. By being located in the vacation capital, everything is available. It’s the happiest place on earth so, of course, people want to live here. I wanted to live here. There are lots of theaters, restaurants, hotels – there’s no shortage of anything. You have to fight with the tourists, but Orlando has become a real corporate center. The white-collar jobs have moved here.”
U-Haul has enjoyed major growth in Orlando, including the number of storage options it can offer residents, businesses and college students. The fleet of rotational U-Haul trucks in the city has nearly quadrupled since Baldwin arrived 20 years ago.
“Growth is not just happening in areas by the theme parks and attractions,” Pizam said. “We have significant sports arenas and convention centers. Soccer is becoming very popular among young people. The new soccer team (Orlando City SC, which currently averages 37,000 fans per home game and has approval for a new privately financed downtown stadium with 26,000-28,000 seats) has excited a lot of people and all the games are sold out. It wasn’t created for tourism, but it’s bringing people all the same.
“We have a variety of suburbs that appeal to people’s occupations and lifestyles. Around (UCF) we have a large Latin American population. Many communities have popped up from this. They are ethnic by nature and cater to that community. They are attractive to people and help culture flourish in Orlando.”
Continue to visit myuhaulstory.com as the U-Haul Top 10 U.S. Destination Cities for 2014 counts down to No. 1.
Additional photo credits: Convention District (featured image) and Orlando sign (thumbnail) by Visit Orlando.
U.S. Destination Rankings
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