Orlando attracted 57 million visitors in 2012, up nearly 2 million from the previous year, Visit Orlando
announced this week. That sets another record for the only U.S. destination to break the 50-million-visitor mark.
"Orlando is unique and different from other destinations in its ability to constantly evolve," said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the area tourism bureau. "Every significant expansion period throughout our history has elevated the destination as a whole and led to significant growth for our region."
That growth is one reason the Orlando International Airport has announced plans for a $2.1 billion expansion, which will include a 16-gate terminal and extension of the airport’s people mover. Beginning this summer it will to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to test new self-service kiosks designed to speed and ease the international arrival process, the first airport to do so.
This development coincided with a $5 billion investment in the region’s tourism infrastructure, including massive expansions at the three largest tourist attractions as well as the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and Sea World Orlando.
Walt Disney World recently unveiled what will be the largest expansion of Fantasyland in its 41-year history, doubling its size. Work is also underway converting Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, which will have 150 shops, restaurants, and other venues.
Universal Orlando recently added Transformers: The Ride 3D and will open a Simpsons-themed area, Springfield, later this summer. And next year it will add Diagon Alley to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.