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Visit Orlando Unfolds Bold Plan as Tourism Increases Ahead of Memorial Day

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Visit Orlando held its Travel & Tourism event at Orange County Convention Center Tuesday in honor of National Travel & Tourism Week.

Elected officials on the local, county, and state levels attended today’s presentation, including State Rep. Daisy Morales (District 48), State Rep. Anna Eskamani, (District 47) (virtually), Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, County Commissioners Nicole H. Wilson (District 1), Mayra Uribe (District 3), Maribel Gomez Cordero (District 4) and Emily Bonilla (District 5); and Comptroller Phil Diamond. In addition, City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, City Commissioners Jim Gray (District 1) and Bakari Burns (District 6) were also in attendance.

Visit Orlando President & CEO Casandra Matej delivered opening remarks at the Travel & Tourism in person event which represented data showing a high number of tours eyeing Florida as their travel destination as the nation reopen from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visit Orlando Release Travel & Tourism Data

Visit Orlando Press Release: As major travel destinations such as New York City and Las Vegas begin relaxing restrictions and re-opening for tourism, Orlando approaches its one-year anniversary as the nation’s frontrunner for creating safe and successful tourism experiences. Recognizing the ongoing road to recovery during National Travel & Tourism Week, Visit Orlando hosted its first live, in-person event to share the latest outlook for summer travel, and new consumer travel trends from respected research firm Destination Analysts.

Erin Francis-Cummings president & CEO of Destination Analysts was the keynote speaker at Visit Orlando Travel & Tourism Event held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

“Our research is showing that Americans are ready to travel again,” said Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO of Destination Analysts. “We are seeing that 87% of American travelers expect to take a trip this summer, which is more than double the percent that took a trip in the summer of 2020. Orlando is seeing extremely strong interest with 51% of respondents saying they are considering the destination for 2021.”

“For Orlando, we are seeing several key indicators trending in very positive directions,” said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “Our region’s meetings sector is outpacing the national recovery forecast at double the expected rate, and lodging demand surged 50% from February to March due to a successful spring break. Orlando’s strong reputation for safety, unique outdoor experiences and family connectedness appears to be really resonating with consumers making plans right now, helping propel Orlando to the destination of choice for summer.”

Orlando Leading the Return of Meetings

Orlando is seeing growing interest in meetings and conventions, with 84 citywide conventions taking place at the Orange County Convention Center, equating to about 900,000 projected attendees and 1.3 million room nights. Based on these confirmed events at the Orange County Convention Center, attendance this year could reach 73% of 2019 attendance. Comparatively, national projections on recovery for the meetings industry are at 35% of 2019 levels.

Summer Travel Outlook and New Openings

After a successful spring break period with Orlando occupancy rates climbing to their highest levels since February 2020, May occupancy may potentially dip, following a typical seasonal pattern for travelers. Summer travel is expected to be strong based on growing traveler sentiment, growing domestic seat capacity at Orlando International Airport and accumulated personal savings to pay for travel.

In addition, Orlando has several new openings for visitors this summer including Jurassic World VelociCoaster opening June 10 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort opening a new 14-story hotel tower, Walt Disney World Swan Reserve. White Castle opened its largest location in the world on May 3 and celebrity Chef Gordan Ramsay announced that Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips will open its first location outside of Las Vegas at ICON Park this summer. Summertime also brings savings, with more than 160 offers at VisitOrlando.com, ranging from attractions and hotels to dining and outdoor activities.

As the United States starts to lessen travel restrictions, Visit Orlando’s website, VisitOrlando.com/healthytravel, keeps visitors up to date on the most current local guidelines.

NBA

Magic Beat Raptors for Second Win in a Row

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ORLANDO, Fla. (Florida National News) – The Orlando Magic (7-20) continued their winning ways against the Toronto Raptors (13-13), defeating them 113-109 , just two days after a come-from-behind overtime victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. This two game winning streak puts an end to the Magic’s previous nine game losing streak.

The Magic started strong, taking a 37-25 lead into the second quarter, led by 10 first quarter points from Franz Wagner. But the Raptors caught up to the Magic midway through the second quarter led by Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. But at halftime, the Magic held a slight lead, 67-63.

The Magic extended their lead to 94-87 with remarkably impressive scoring from Franz Wagner who added 14 points in the third quarter alone. In the fourth quarter, the Raptors tied it up 108-108 with about two minutes remaining after two free throws by OG Anunoby. Paolo Banchero made one of two subsequent free throws, and Moe Wagner drew the charge from Gary Trent Jr. to negate his two point basket. Fred Van Vleet later added a free throw to tie the game at 109-109. A Franz Wagner tip layup put the Magic up 111-109. A missed shot by Fred Van Vleet sealed the Raptors loss. Banchero’s two free throws put the Magic ahead 113-109 at the end of the game.

Franz Wagner led the scoring for the Magic with 34 points, while Paolo Banchero scored 23. Mo Bamba finished with 13 rebounds. Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz ended with 5 assists.

Several Magic players remain injured and were unable to play, including Wendell Carter Jr. (plantar fascia strain), Gary Harris (strained right hamstring), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness), Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee recovery). Isaac has started his rehab program, playing in full contact 5 on 5 practice games with the Lakeland G League affiliate, and hopes to return to the court soon for Orlando.

The Magic face the Raptors at Amway once again on Sunday, 12/11 at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to follow www.FloridaSportsChannel.com and www.FloridaNationalNews.com for more.

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Orlando

Gaetz friend gets 11 years for sex crime, other counts

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida tax collector whose arrest led to a federal probe into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor and other crimes.

Joel Greenberg, former tax collector for Seminole County, had pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, also including identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said he paid at least one girl to have sex with him and other men.

“Nothing justifies my actions. My conduct is so shameful. I feel remorse for what I’ve done,” Greenberg said in court Thursday.

Greenberg’s attorney had asked U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell for leniency, saying that his client had assisted in investigations of 24 people, including eight for sex crimes. Defense attorney Fritz Scheller said that Greenberg’s cooperation has led to four federal indictments, and that he believed additional ones were expected in the coming month.

Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an investigation into his friend Gaetz over whether he paid a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot. No charges have been brought against the Republican congressman, who represents a large part of the Florida Panhandle.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a significant reduction in Greenberg’s prison sentence, agreeing during a court hearing on Wednesday to a reduced range of nine years and three months to 11 years. Presnell ended up imposing the upper limit of that range.

The minor in the sex crimes case was almost an adult and had advertised as being over age 18 in her escort profile on the website “Seeking Arrangements,” which facilitates “sugar daddy” relationships, Scheller wrote in court papers.

The defense attorney also said that Greenberg “has provided significant substantial assistance to the government in the areas of public corruption, election fraud, wire fraud, and sex trafficking.”

Scheller also had asked the judge to take into consideration Greenberg’s struggles with mental illness, starting with an attention deficit disorder diagnosis at age 7 and panic attacks, depressive and anxiety disorders as an adult. At the time he committed the crimes, he had bipolar disorder with symptoms of mania, which affected his judgment and impulse control, Scheller said.

Greenberg has been linked to other Florida politicians and their associates. So far, none has been implicated in the sex trafficking investigation.

Some documents related to Greenberg’s cooperation were filed under seal and out of the public eye, with prosecutors and the defense attorney saying they were part of ongoing investigations being conducted by federal authorities in Florida and Washington, as well as state investigators.

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Articles

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023

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WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit https://www.BuenaVistaEvents.com or https://www.MisterRogersWeekofKindness.com.

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