What has happened since you launched in the campaign in 2015?
At first, some of the local businesses were apprehensive because they wanted to be different from Orlando. Some folks thought we were changing our name, even though we weren’t. They didn’t want anything to do with Orlando and thought it was a terrible idea. But once businesses started seeing stronger numbers and more visitors started coming from different places, they wanted us to keep doing what we were doing. We needed to keep driving more people to our destination and it took a little time. After three years, it’s been unbelievable the growth we’ve seen and people are happy now.
Can you quantify the kind of growth you’ve seen?
We saw about a 53 percent increase in website traffic. Our hotel occupancy rates went from 66.7 percent in 2014 to 69.8 percent a year later, going up to 74.6 percent in 2017. Our ADR [average daily rate] numbers have also gone up from $76.09 in 2014 to $82.11 in 2015 to $94.39 in 2017.
What’s something that a lot of people don’t know about you?
I started nonprofit called Sports4Kids. Every single penny that we raise goes to providing a scholarship to financially disadvantaged kids in the central Florida area who want to play sports. A lot of kids can’t afford to participate in local sports because of the registration fees. There are so many families and parents that just automatically assume they can’t afford to put my kids into sports like Pop Warner or Little League.
We raise funds and award partial scholarships, so if there’s a $150 fee, and we’ll pay $75 and then it’s up the parents to pay the additional $75. In 2018 we’ve already awarded over 200 scholarships, doubling the number we did in 2017. One of our founding board members was Stan Van Gundy, when he was coach of the Orlando Magic because he lived in Lake Mary. We also do sports equipment collection drives.