ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — News that international travelers will soon be allowed to visit the United States again after a ban because of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to ignite a pent-up demand to come to Florida, but Central Florida businesses might be even more excited.
David Bobola, a knight at Medieval Times for more than a dozen years, and his fellow competitors feed off the roar of the crowd for a strong performance.
What You Need To Know Central Florida businesses hope international visitors give them a boost
The U.S. on Nov. 8 will ease travel restrictions imposed because of COVID
Visit Orlando: International visitors to area dived to about 1.6 million in 2020
In the meantime, managers worked hard to draw more local consumers “The more people you have here, cheering and getting into it, gets us pumped also,” Bobola said, his hand firmly grasped to a battle-ax. “So they get excited, we get excited.”
The White House announced Friday that it will lift restrictions on fully vaccinated travelers from more than 30 countries as long as they also can produce a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their trip and provide contact tracing information.
“We’ve pretty much dug deep into speaking to the local market, knowing the international market would be a far stretch and not knowing when they would be returning,” Medieval Times Marketing Manager Shaira Graulau said.
According to Visit Orlando, the Orlando area in 2019 welcomed just less than 6.5 million international travelers. In 2020, that number dived nearly 75% to fewer than 1.6 million. But even though 2021 numbers are expected to be slashed even more, 2022 is looking up.
Since reopening in summer 2020, Medieval Times has really taken a hit. Not only is the dining and entertainment venue operating at half-capacity for safety measures, but it also is down four shows a week.
“We had smaller shows, but everything went well,” Bobola said. “From that beginning point, we kept building up and getting more people.
“We kind of get a good response from everybody — the kids, the adults they all get excited,” Bobola said, smiling. “I just think it’s really cool getting people from everywhere coming to this location.”
The crowds are starting to fill back in, and soon the knights hope to take center stage to a sold-out crowd again.
Medieval Times leaders say they hope to add more shows to their schedule around Thanksgiving, with more tourists potentially arriving.
The country from which Orlando sees the most overseas tourists, according to Visit Orlando, is Great Britain, followed by Brazil and Colombia. Great Britain and Brazil, at minimum, are among the countries from which travelers will be permitted under the eased restrictions.