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Orlando More Appealing Than Ever Thanks to Significant Period of Expansion

Orlando Welcomed 57 million Visitors in 2012, Setting Another Record and Cementing Orlando's Standing as the Most Visited Destination in America


ORLANDO, Fla. -- An estimated $5 billion of capital investment across the Central Florida tourism industry marks the biggest expansion in the destination's history, making Orlando more appealing to travelers than ever before.

"Orlando is unique and different from other destinations in its ability to constantly evolve," said Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel. "Every significant expansion period throughout our history has elevated the destination as a whole and led to significant growth for our region."

Orlando welcomed 57 million visitors in 2012, setting yet another record and continuing to make Orlando the most visited destination in America. The increase was 3.3% over 2011, which saw 55.1 million visitors. Top international markets continue to be Canada, UK and Brazil. Visitation from South and Central America has more than doubled over the last 10 years, making Orlando's fastest growing market.

To ensure the destination can easily handle the increase in visitation, Orlando International Airport has laid out a plan to spend $2.1 billion on improvements through 2018, including a new 16-gate terminal complex and extension of the airport's people mover system, plus $114 million for a series of improvements to keep passenger traffic moving. It will be the first airport in the U.S. to test the self-service kiosks intended to expedite the international arrival process and reduce passenger processing times with Customs and Border Protection when they become operational in summer 2013.

At the heart of Orlando tourism, world famous theme parks offer significant expansion projects coming to fruition over the next few years:

Walt Disney World Resort

  • This summer marks the first for New Fantasyland, the largest expansion in the 41-year history of the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort. The multiyear expansion is doubling the size of the existing Fantasyland, and will include the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a tribute to the story of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." This family coaster, opening in 2014, will have an innovative ride system that rocks the mine cars back and forth as they zoom around the track.
  • Walt Disney World Resort recently announced the multiyear transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, a unique destination that will treat guests to double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues, resulting in more than 150 establishments. Disney Springs will feature an eclectic and contemporary mix of noteworthy brands, including boutique shops to unique flagship anchor stores unlike any other currently available in Central Florida.

SeaWorld Orlando

  • SeaWorld Orlando recently opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin - the biggest expansion in its company history. At Antarctica, guests take a thrilling, chilling adventure of a lifetime on an all-family adventure ride to the frozen south, where they join and explore a colony of penguins in a 30-degree world, making Antarctica the coldest theme park attraction in sunny, tropical Orlando. It's an all-new realm that takes SeaWorld's unique experiences and up-close adventures with marine life to a new level.

Universal Orlando Resort

  • At Universal Orlando Resort, Transformers: The Ride - 3D officially opens this summer. The ride is a mind-blowing, action-packed ride experience that pushes the limits of technology to place guests in the middle of a larger-than-life battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Also opening this summer is Springfield, hometown to America's animated family, The Simpsons. The expansive, new area within Universal Studios will be the only place in the world where guests can walk the streets of Springfield.
  • Building on the global phenomenon that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment recently announced another expansion with the entirely new themed environment, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. Scheduled to open in 2014, the world's first centrally themed, multi-park experience expands The Wizarding World of Harry Potter across both Universal Orlando theme parks.

Additional expansions throughout Central Florida in 2013 include a new $100 million home for Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where visitors will come nose to nose with the priceless Atlantis spacecraft; an interactive water ride, Quest for Chi, opening in the new World of Chima at LEGOLAND Florida, the largest LEGOLAND park in the world; and a 10-acre expansion, complete with two new roller coasters and a 250-foot SkyCoaster, at Fun Spot America.

To help the travel trade understand how to benefit from the exciting news coming out of the destination, Visit Orlando has launched an enhanced Orlando Travel Academy. Travel agents around the globe can use this online tool to help boost their knowledge of Orlando and augment their ability to help customers. For the first time ever, Orlando Travel Academy will be available in Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and global English, with full audio commentary that brings the destination to life in a dynamic way. Upon completion of the program, Orlando Travel Academy graduates receive the designation of "Orlando Travel Expert," along with continuing education credits from The Travel Institute and a variety of exclusive benefits.