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A Look at Orlando’s Unique Attractions & Entertainment Ecosystem

Kerry Cannon

It’s no secret that Orlando has carved out a formidable position in the travel and entertainment marketplace as the go-to destination for themed entertainment. As the number one traveled-to destination in North America, Orlando has evolved into a highly diverse, thriving entertainment ecosystem offering world-class theme parks, fascinating attractions, sports venues, water parks, and a whole lot more.

As the most visited destination in the US, a record-breaking 66 million people came to Orlando in 2015. Orlando lays claim to six of the top 25 amusement/theme parks worldwide. In North America, Orlando boasts seven of the top ten theme parks, and four of the top five water parks. And while Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld reside at the top of the food chain, in the shadow of these leviathans of entertainment there are myriad smaller players vying for their share of the Orlando tourist’s wallet.

The challenge, however, is that just because tens of millions of people come here each year, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to get them to visit your attraction, amusement park, aquarium or zoo. Just taking a count of the outdoor billboards along Interstate 4 in Central Florida makes it abundantly clear just how competitive this market is. Smaller marketers have to be smarter, scrappier and more tactical in how they carve out their place in the sun.

This year, MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers® (POAT) takes a deep dive into where attractions and activities fit into visitors’ overall travel planning and booking. Some fascinating trends are emerging with significant impact on how these smaller players can effectively compete in a crowded space like Orlando.

Insight #1 – Orlando is unique among destinations.

Theme parks and attractions drive demand here in Orlando more so than in other destinations:

  • According to POAT, of those travelers interested in visiting Orlando, 48% of their vacations involve visiting at least one attraction, compared to only 30% of vacations of travelers who are not interested in visiting Orlando.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of travelers interested in visiting Orlando took at least one vacation that included visiting attractions, compared to only 55% of travelers not interested in visiting Orlando.

Insight #2 –Theme park travelers plan before they leave home.

Orlando-bound travelers don’t just come down here and “wing it.” They plan ahead and select their activities in advance:

  • 77% of travelers interested in visiting Orlando pick the majority of the attractions they plan to visit before they leave for vacation, while only about a quarter (23%) make those choices while in the destination.
  • Of those who say that visiting a theme park is the primary reason for travel, 88% say that they pick what they’re going to do before they leave home.

Insight #3 – Theme park goers are different from amusement park and other attraction attendees

When we look at travelers interested in visiting Orlando, there are real differences between those who want to visit traditional theme parks (such as Disney World, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld) and those interested in amusement parks (such as Six Flags, Cedar Point, Fun Spot).

  • Amusement parkers are younger. 60% of those who want to visit amusement parks are Millennials (ages 18 to 34), compared to only 34% of those who want to visit theme parks. And 35% of those who want to visit theme parks are Baby Boomers, compared to only 9% of those who want to visit amusement parks.
  • More amusement parkers are married and have children. 84% of those who want to visit amusement parks are married, compared to 75% of those who want to visit theme parks. Two-thirds (67%) of those who want to visit amusement parks have children, compared to only 43% of those who want to visit theme parks.

Insight #4 – Even the best-laid plans can change

While the majority of Orlando-bound visitors say they pick their activities before they arrive, fully half (49%) say that they purchase their tickets in person at the attraction’s box office. People are fickle; they change their minds...especially when presented with the right enticement. Employing smart intercept marketing tactics can prove very effective if you can put the right message in front of these folks at the right time.

OK – so let’s talk about how you can apply a little marketing ju-jitsu and use the weight of these trends to your strategic advantage.

Mobile & Social

The rise of the smartphone-equipped traveler now allows you the opportunity to hit moving targets with laser-beam accuracy. According to POAT, over 78% of American travelers have a smartphone or tablet and 91% use those devices regularly to access their social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These numbers are even larger for Orlando visitors (82% and 93% respectively). This creates incredible opportunities for clever marketers who want to influence visitors before they arrive or on the fly as they travel around a destination.

“Geo-fencing” technology allows a marketer to set specific geographic parameters around who sees your message, along with when and where. Your ads and offers will only reach people who are physically inside that geographically defined boundary. Imagine if you are an attraction on International Drive in Orlando, and you can create a geo-fence around SeaWorld and post an offer through Facebook specifically and only to those people? Super-targeted, no waste, immediacy, efficiency.

Digital targeting, re-targeting and “lookalike” targeting platforms have been developed that allow marketers to reach people who fit a defined target audience. Perhaps those who have visited your site in the past, or searched one of your competitors, or recently booked airline tickets or a hotel stay in Orlando. Through these platforms – and the smart use of data – you can use geography, search history, site visit history or a host of other criteria to present actionable advertising offers (promotions, discounts, coupons, etc.) to them efficiently and accurately and to whatever device they happen to be using. And the beauty is that it’s all measurable, accountable, and can be optimized in real time to avoid wasting precious time and resources.

And while off-line traditional media such as billboards, visitors guides, etc. can serve to reinforce your digital campaign, we have evolved decidedly from the days of “spray and pray” advertising. Armed with the right mix of digital delivery tools, smart creative messaging, and close attention to analytics, smaller attractions can punch above their weight class and command their share of even the most competitive destination markets.

To learn more about MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers® study, or about digital targeting strategies, contact Kerry Cannon, Managing Director, MMGY Global / Orlando at 407-838-1762 or kcannon@mmgyglobal.com.

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