As 2010 comes to an end, it’s time to look back at this year’s high points for Orlando tourism. It is also a good time to look ahead at what 2011 will bring. Despite a tough economy, people are still finding a way to make the most of their vacation dollar. Tourism in Central Florida is alive and well (but could be better).

The park that wins top spot this year would have to be Universal Studios with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Starting June 28, Universal’s attendance rose over 30% over the summer. Area businesses also saw an increase as tourists came from all over the world to experience this series of books and movies come to life in the form of a theme park. Universal will continue to benefit from this addition in 2011 and beyond.

Walt Disney World will forever be the main attraction in the Orlando area. It is hard to beat generations upon generations in love with ‘the mouse.’  It seemed to me that Disney spent most of 2010 following the ‘out with the old’ philosophy. Goodbye Power Rangers, High School Musical, Peter Pan & Captain Hook (in the Electrical Parade), and a few other features. Disney is in the midst of its largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history, but most of these new experiences will not be open until 2013. Look for more goodbyes as they make room next year. Another addition in 2012 includes a family-suites hotel – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

Sea World suffered tragedy this year with the loss of a trainer in their killer whale show. The show, having to be altered to not allow trainers in the water with the mammals, has diminished the excitement once generated by this feature. SeaWorld’s annual revenue is estimated to have shrunk from $1.4 billion a year ago to $1.2 billion this year. They are now eliminating jobs and restructuring for long-term growth.  Look for SeaWorld to revamp their killer whale show and be as entertaining as ever in 2011.

Busch Gardens has not suffered as greatly as its sister park and continues to work on Cheetah Run as well as a ‘cheetah-like’ coaster called Cheetah Hunt. This addition is scheduled for spring 2011 and should get the attention of roller coaster enthusiasts.

Legoland is coming to Central Florida! Redeveloping Cypress Gardens, this theme park will be a great addition to the family-oriented theme park corridor. It is scheduled to be open in October of 2011.

With OIA reporting that the number of airline passengers is up from previous years, our hope is that visitors will continue to come to the Orlando area to spend their vacation. Let’s ring in a new year with cash registers ringing! Let 2011 produce an even better year for Central Florida tourism!