With a new year comes new challenges to Central Florida and in particular the Orlando and Orange County area.

Tourism is critical to the economic vitality of Orange County, Florida, but  in recent years the tourist industry has come under considerable stress.  The rate of growth for Orlando’s tourist industry is declining and is expected to continue to decline through 2012.[1]  South Florida’s burgeoning gambling market is sapping Central Florida’s convention business, and Orlando may be forced to cede this important market-share in order to preserve the family-centered tourism.[2] Gambling just isn’t a good fit for Orange County.

Orlando can ill-afford to lose the tourist revenue brought in by Walt Disney World, but the loss of convention business certainly hurts. So it seems like any new growth in the tourist industry should be encouraged by the local government.

The Orange County economy just can’t afford to say “no” to growth. But the Board of County Commissioners may be doing just that, if it says “no” to a project proposed by Tinwood Industries for an  expansion to a helipad for a helicopter attraction in an area of unincorporated Orange County near the attractions.  This is a boon for the tourist industry, as the proposed helipad expansion would allow transportation for additional tourists debarking from cruise ships in Cape Canaveral.

In a December 14th interview on WMFE, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs decried the impact of “unneeded bureaucracy” in slowing down the economy.  This seems to be a clear example of a project that may suffer in the face of unneeded bureaucracy.  The Substantial Change application for the helipad has been through numerous delays since it began winding its way through the local government bureaucracy in 2011.  On February 7th, 2012, the Orange County Board of Count Commissioners will meet in a quasi-judicial proceeding to determine if Tinwood’s application for helipad expansion will be heard.  In the current economic recession, it is simply inexcusable that the County Board of Commissioners take any action to inhibit growth in the local tourist industry.

Here’s hoping that Board of County Commissioners and Mayor Jacobs start the year off right, by getting needless bureaucracy out of the way so the tourist industry can grow.

[1] “Total visitation to Orlando that combines domestic and international arrivals are expected to increase 3.7 percent, from 51.5 million visitors in 2010 to an estimated 53.4 million in 2011, and increase 1.8 percent in 2012 to an estimated 54.3 million visitors.” http://www.visitorlando.com/research/visitors/forecast.cfm (Access date December 10, 2011).
[2] Jason Garcia, Push for South Florida casinos splits Orlando’s tourism industry: Convention hotels vs. Disney World, Orlando Sentinel. October, 14 2011 http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/business_tourism_aviation/ (Access date December 10, 2011).