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It was another record-breaking year for Orlando with final 2011 visitation numbers revealing that Orlando welcomed 55.1 million visitors, up 7.2 percent from last year’s record setting 51.4 million and 1.5 percent over the previous forecast of 54.3 million visitors.

Total domestic visitation (business and leisure) accounted for 51.3 million visitors, a 7.5 percent increase over 2010 and a record for any U.S. destination; international travel totaled 3.8 million, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2010. Orlando is the first destination in the country to welcome more than 55 million visitors and remains the most visited destination in the U.S.

“This is tremendously positive news for the destination,” said Paul Tang, chairman of Visit Orlando. “We have seen a strong rebound in our visitation numbers over the past two years led by increases in domestic and international travel and we continue to be optimistic about the future of the destination. We are known worldwide as the top family destination and we continue to be a top choice for inspiring meetings. Breaking the 55 million total visitation mark shows the strength of the Orlando brand.”

Additional visitation information includes: visitation from Canada, Orlando’s top international feeder market, was up 5.7 percent to 1,015,000 travelers in 2011; domestic leisure visitation was up 8.3 percent to 41.4 million, representing 75 percent of all visitors; overnight leisure visitation was 28.3 million, up 9.8 percent; overnight convention-group meeting visitation was 3.3 million, up 2.7 percent; and hotel room occupancy was up 5.8 percent to 67.6 percent.

In 2011, Visit Orlando initiated new marketing campaigns domestically to increase visitation during “need periods” (May-June and Mid-August – September). Internationally, campaigns in Canada, the U.K. and Brazil reinforced the tagline, “Orlando Makes Me Smile.” Visit Orlando also showcased the destination’s offerings to thousands of tour operators and travel professionals at numerous key travel industry tradeshows throughout North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia and was instrumental in driving additional air service to Orlando from domestic and Central and Latin America carriers.

“Our travel and tourism industry has led the way in creating new jobs over the past two years and from these numbers you can see why,” said Teresa Jacobs, mayor, Orange County. “I commend the industry and the companies that continue to invest their time and resources to keep Orlando top of mind with potential travelers. They continue to be the backbone of our community and we are happy to support their efforts.”

Domestic visitation numbers are provided by D.K. Shifflet and Associates Ltd., a travel research firm specializing in consumer-based travel data. DKSandA’s DIRECTIONS Travel Intelligence SystemSM collects detailed monthly travel data on more than 150,000 trips annually collected from a sample of U.S. households.

Overseas travel numbers are provided by the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries through in-flight surveys and analysis of customs paperwork provided by travelers.

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